by Jenn McKinlay
Release Date: May 16, 2023
Reviewed by PJ
For Samantha Gale, a summer on Martha’s Vineyard at her family’s tiny cottage was supposed to be about resurrecting her career as a chef, until she’s tasked with chaperoning her half-brother, Tyler. The teenage brainiac is spending his summer at the local library in a robotics competition, and there’s no place Sam, who has dyslexia, likes less than the library. And because the universe hates her, the library’s interim director turns out to be the hot-reader guy whose book she accidentally destroyed on the ferry ride to the island.
Bennett Reynolds is on a quest to find his father, whose identity he’s never known. He’s taken the temporary job on the island to research the summer his mother spent there when she got pregnant with him. Ben tells himself he isn't interested in a relationship right now. Yet as soon as Sam knocks his book into the ocean, he can’t stop thinking about her.
An irresistible attraction blossoms when Ben inspires Sam to create the cookbook she’s always dreamed about and she jumps all in on helping him find his father, and soon they realize their summer fling may heat up into a happily ever after.
Summer Reading has all the elements I look for when adding books to my summer reading list. There's a small island, reunited best friends, a heroine at a professional crossroads, a fractured sibling relationship, and a nerdy, romantic hero who captured my heart right along with Sam's.
The first thing I have to mention about this book is Sam's dyslexia and how it's handled. The author uses great care and sensitivity, coupled with research, knowledge, and first-hand assistance to craft this character. Then she takes it a step further by creating a reading experience designed to be more accessible to readers with the same diagnosis. I have never encountered a novel where the author - and publisher - used the cover, font, spacing, margins, even foregoing italics for bold print within the text of the book, all to enhance the reading experience for neurodivergent readers who pick up this book. Kudos to them!
I loved the gradual evolution of the relationship between Sam and her 14-years-younger half-brother, Tyler. As someone with four younger brothers, I can attest to the fact that the author nailed the angst, attitude, and vulnerable uncertainty of Tyler. The bond of understanding, and affection, that gradually formed between brother and sister was one of my favorite parts of the book, some scenes bringing me to tears while others (self-appointed chaperone) had me laughing out loud.
And then there's the food. Sam's Portuguese dishes had me drooling (do not read this book while hungry) and scrounging through the kitchen every half hour. Much like Tyler. Bonus for readers: there are recipes!
I was very curious to discover how McKinlay would handle a dyslexic heroine who did everything in her power to avoid books falling for a library director who was never without one. I hadn't counted on Ben. I adored him and I adored who he was with Sam, how he respected her and found ways to share his love of books with her in a manner that did not cause anxiety or make her feel less than. How he offered his assistance and encouragement to help her achieve her dreams. As a fan of this author's works, I also loved the fact that the book Ben shares with Sam in Summer Reading is an actual novel written by McKinlay. (Check out my review of Paris is Always a Good Idea)
The romantic relationship between Sam and Ben unfolds organically, with a nice balance of sweetness, sizzle, and emotional depth. Both characters are on a journey of growth that had me aching with them at points and cheering them on at others. There were some emotional stumbles along the way though they worked really well together to communicate their way through them. Except in the latter part of the book where an emotional blow for Ben causes him to walk away. We see the aftereffects from Sam's perspective but I wanted to understand Ben's thought processes as well, especially when their communication had been so open throughout the novel. It all turns out okay in the end but I felt a little shortchanged by the exclusion. Still, it's a small blip in the overall scope of a fun, thoughtful, and feel-good story and a sweet gesture from Ben convinced me that his heart was in the right place even if his head hadn't been. All's well that ends well and these two definitely ended well.
Summer Reading is a book I enthusiastically recommend adding to your summer reading list.
Have you read Jenn McKinlay yet?
Do you have a favorite setting for your summer beach/pool/backyard reads?
What elements do you look for in a summer book?
One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, May 19 will receive a print copy of Summer Reading.
*Must be 18
Thank you to Berkley for today's giveaway.