Review: Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

by Heather Caliendo
big summer review - book club chat

Editorial note: I received a copy of Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner in exchange for a review. 

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner is everything you want in a beach read and more. 

Jennifer Weiner is one of those authors that will always hold a special place in my reading life. When I made the transition from YA to adult fiction, I went for several of her early books. But it had been a while since I read her work until last year’s Mrs. Everything. That story featured epic storytelling and a bit of a departure from her previous stories. I really enjoyed it and encourage you all to read if you haven’t yet. It’s quite the impactful story about sisters. 

I kind of figured it would be a couple of years before her next book. But much to my surprise, she’s back again with a story that is closer to her roots and exactly what I needed to read during this era. 

I view beach reads as digestible stories that are perfect for a lazy summer day. But that doesn’t mean it lacks depth and Big Summer does tackle important topics. Let’s take a closer look.

The synopsis 

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

The influencer storyline

So I definitely side-eyed the influencer focus when I first read the synopsis. I thought it had the potential to be annoying, which, let’s face it, many influencers are. Well, I was wrong about that. It’s actually really interesting that she chose for her protagonist to be a plus-side Instagram influencer. You get a bit of a behind the scenes look at the work it takes to obtain sponsorships and such but with the added pressure of having to pretend life is a dream when reality is far from it. 

Jennifer Weiner also takes a closer look at trolls and mean comments, especially regarding Daphne’s weight and how hard it is to simply ignore it. I think readers will find it engaging and relevant so after reading the story, I see why she made the choice for Daphne to work in this arena. Hopefully people will take away that they need to be nice to each other online! One can dream, right?

Complicated friendships

The friendship between Drue and Daphne is complex and oftentimes, one-sided. Drue is that type of it woman who can convince people to do anything, which means she uses people all the time. She’ll extend a bit of kindness but then a flurry of offensive behavior. But because she’s pretty and rich, she can get away with it. But she goes too far one night and Daphne ends the friendship.

Until it’s time for Drue to get married. And surprise, she’s ran off most of the people in her life. She has to beg Daphne to be in her wedding but despite all the warning signs, Daphne goes right back into Drue’s orbit. 

Some friendships do have a power imbalance where one takes far more than they give. But it’s hard to break free from those type of friendships when you focus on all the good times but conveniently forget all the bad ones. I thought the representation of this kind of friendship felt true and authentic. 

There’s a mystery too…

I keep my reviews spoiler-free but I do want to point out that there’s a mystery in this story (it’s hinted at in the promotional items). It kind of reminded me a bit of some of the cozy mysteries I’ve read. I would say this is a contemporary women’s fiction story with a mystery component thrown in. I’m curious what people will think about that because it does turn the story a bit on its head and follows the whole idea of “this is not going to go the way you think.” I liked that curveball—really thought it worked well.

Overall, I enjoyed Big Summer and read it one sitting. It truly takes a closer look at one’s journey to figuring out what really matters in life.

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