Title: Summer of Salt
Author: Katrina Leno
Release Date: June 5th 2018
Genre(s): Contemporary, Fantasy, Young Adult
Page Count: 272 (hardback)
This is one of those “You could have been amazing, so what the hell happened?” books. The premise is fantastic. Described as Practical Magic meets Bone Gap, it’s about a pair of twin sisters who are about to spend their last summer in their childhood home–one that’s situated on a small island full of strange history and myth. Georgina and Mary Fernweh are descended from a line of magical women–some could control fire, others could fly and even walk on water. Sounds great, yeah?
The first quarter of the book is everything I’d hoped it would be. The island is cozy and quirky in a way that made me smile, and the conversational tone of Georgina’s narration complements the setting perfectly. It’s like we’re on a vacation with her on this island and she’s showing us all its sights and history.
And then the problems begin.
First of all, the writing style. Sometimes the prose is poetic and moving. Other times, it’s more like this:
“Hey, Kathy, what do want for breakfast?”
What do I want? I want the taste of strawberries on my lips, ones plucked fresh from my grandmother’s garden. I want to watch the dawning of the skies as the sun crawls over the horizon and the world holds its breath. I want the feel of birdsongs winding across my skin. I want to be washed by the morning mist in a baptism of hope and new beginnings.
“Just some cereal, thank you.”
Repetitions can be used for powerful effect. When used sparingly. And at choice moments. The problem with Summer of Salt is that the author doesn’t know when to stop. She’s overindulgent with her prose, and what was beautiful and effective early in the book becomes more and more grating and contrived.
Then we have the characters. While I enjoyed Georgina’s narrative voice, all the side characters were uninteresting and their relationships very shallow. The romance between Georgina and a tourist girl named Prue is painfully underdeveloped. We barely know who Prue is and yet the two of them are already declaring love for one another by the end of the story.
But my biggest problem is with Mary. Here’s the thing: I hate stories that think sexual abuse and assault can stand in for character growth. For most of the book, Mary is abrasive, insensitive, bratty, and just not all that great in general. My issue is that no one challenges her on this–not her sister nor the rest of her family. They all shrug and say, “Oh, well, that’s just who she is. But we love her anyway.” And so she remains that way until the very end, when a certain event triggers a change in her personality. She could have had an interesting character arc; her personality could have clashed with Georgina’s and they could have spent the rest of summer trying to untangle the snarls in their relationship. Instead, the author went with a cop out: use of rape as a catalyst for interpersonal conflicts.
The plot is just as underwhelming as everything else. A mystery pops up out of nowhere at the halfway point and ends up fizzling out by the end.
I had high hopes for this one, but all in all, it was a sadly disappointing read.
Review copy provided by HarperTeen and Edelweiss