Title: Big Summer
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Publication Information: Atria Books. 2020. 368 pages.
ISBN: 1501133519 / 978-1501133510
Book Source: I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.
Opening Sentence: "By the second week of September, the outer Cape was practically deserted."
Favorite Quote: "The trick of the Internet I had learned, was not being unapologetically yourself or completely unfiltered; it was mastering the trick of appearing that way. It was spiking your posts with just the right amount of read... which meant, of course, that you were never being real at all."
The cover and the title of the book imply a Summer Beach read about a "big" girl and the trials and joys that entails. Daphne Burg is a "big" girl. She has overcome many of the challenges that brought as a young woman. "I thought my body was unacceptable, and that I had to hide. That's what the world tells us, right? But, now, maybe, if enough of us stand up and show ourselves, just as we are, if we post about our thriving, busy, messy, beautiful lives, our daughters won't have to swallow the same lies." She is happy with herself (some of the time) and is now an internet influencer encouraging others to be the same.
Part of her, like many of us, never escapes the Middle School years and the insecurities that entailed. For her, that experience is rolled up in Drue Cavanaugh, who was her best friend until she wasn't. Now, Drue is back, and she wants Daphne to be in her wedding. For many reasons, Daphne says yes. Part of the book devolves into reliving the middle school mean girl years and reads as if written for a young adult novel.
Then, much to my surprise and delight, the book turns into a mystery. Someone is murdered, and, of course, Daphne must find out the truth. "Everyone deserves justice, I thought. Even people who lie. And everyone lies. Especially on social media, where there were lies of commission and lies of omission on everyone's page, woven into everyone's public presence."
Sprinkled throughout are handsome men and gratuitous sex scenes I could do without. To some degree, they also don't ring true. The idea of bikinis and jumping into bed with men does not go with the idea of someone who has body image issues. Overall, the mystery takes center stage. That makes for a fun read. The solution to the mystery is a surprise, but when it comes, it seems a natural conclusion.
The book rounds out with a feel good, if cliché, lesson about life, acceptance, and the internet. "I'm not brave all the time. No one is. We've all been disappointed; we've all had our hearts broken, and we're all just doing our best. Make sure you have people who love you, the real you, not the Instagram you. If you can't be brave, pretend to be brave, and if can't do that yet, know that you aren't alone. Everyone you see is struggling. Nobody has it figured out."
The book is still a quick, easily read, summer beach read. It's just not the exactly the one I expected, and that is a good thing in this case.