I can’t find a quote to begin this review with. Even though One Summer was preachy and spoke at length about life and what it is and what it’s not, and while all of it was written in large font, it turned my expression and my mind rather wooden.
Jack Armstrong is dying. He’s 35 years old, married to his high school sweetheart, Lizzie, and has contracted a disease that remains unnamed from start to finish but is serious enough to kill him by Christmas. He’s marking his days off on a calendar, worried about his three children (Mikki, Cory and Jackie), writing his “final” letters to Lizzie. . Understandable. My sympathies. Out of the blue, Lizzie slaps Jack’s friend who makes a move on her – this scene serves no purpose (except maybe to show men can’t trust their friends *shrugs*). Anyway. Just before Christmas, Lizzie meets with an accident and dies. Her evil mom decides to send the children to live with their relatives because Jack could die any minute now. Can’t applaud her plan but nevertheless, understandable.
But as every bad movie and pedestrian-prose-filled-plot-driven book in history, Jack gets cured of… unnamed dangerous disease. Not understandable. While we are to assume that his recovery took some time and effort, the time spent on it in the book would lead you to believe it was almost instantaneous. He brings back his kids from wherever they’d been sent to. At this point, quite conveniently, they inherit a house in Channing, South Carolina (beachfront property, mind you) and new-improved dad, dad’s friend (not the douchebag from before), and three kids pack and move to the house (that they call the “Palace”) by the sea for the summer.
It’s rare that one could write a book about a tragedy and make it seem so… un-tragic. There’s hardly any conflict, and if it does arise, it’s resolved too quickly for it to have an impact. Right from the beginning, the book gave me this country-song-with-trucks-and-beers-and-blond-girls vibe, if you know what I mean. It’s so light and fluffy (like cotton candy if you will) – and I mean that almost literally – I already mentioned the large font. Add to that, each chapter is only about three pages long. You can rush through pages (and yet, at times it was so boring that it took me two weeks to read – that jar you see in the photo is what I place my “fines” in if I don’t finish a book in time)
The dialogues are so bad that had it tilted one degree over, it would go into the so-bad-it’s-good-category. Jack and Lizzie have been married since they were in high school, but it’s on his deathbed that he asks her how old her twin sister was when she died and what killed her. Sounds like a pretty important conversation to have been postponed for so long.
There was another dialogue between Mikki, the eldest daughter, and Liam, a boy she met during the summer that went like this:
“Your mom is really cool, Liam.”
“I don’t even remember my dad.”
Liam, kid, she did not say a word about your dad; what kind of a response is that?
One Summer had some really unnatural and disconnected dialogues. Real people just don’t talk this way. And, oh, because Mikki is a teenager, she adds “Like” everywhere in a sentence, like, after every, like, other word. Ugh, please!
The author has also been rather judgmental about the clothes his characters wear. For example, there’s a character named Tiffany Murdoch who’s a stereotypical mean girl. We know this even before she throws her mean weight around because she wears “tiny shorts” and other outfits described as “skimpy”. Her mother is just the same and wears clothes that “do not suit her age”. Wow, talk about all kinds of shaming. On the other hand, Mikki is real nice because she wears “knee-length shorts” and Blake Saunders (another minor character) tells her, “Other girls are easy to read. You’re not like them.” and she’s pleased as hell with her knee-length shorts-wearing brains.
Have I mentioned how much I disliked the prose? Well, I’ll just mention it again so you understand the extent of my pissed-off-ness. I mean, I couldn’t even find a quote to put at the top.
I’ve heard that this isn’t a typical Baldacci book. Unfortunately for me this is the first one I picked up. While his other works may fall into other genres, I don’t think there’s any cure for poor prose and bad dialogue (and mean girls in skimpy outfits). Reason enough for me to stay away.