by Jennifer Weiner
Expected publication: Atria Books; May 5, 2020
About the book:
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.
On a perfect summer night, as generations of Cavanaughs descend on the family beach in Cape Cod, the cute guy materializes and a family feud erupts. With rumors swirling about everything from a failing business to infidelity, it’s clear why Drue wanted Daphne by her side. When Daphne wakes up the morning of the wedding to find that her crush has vanished and that something terrible has happened to her friend, it’s up to her to dig deep into Drue’s past, to unpeel the layers of illusion, and to find out the complicated truth about perfect Drue Cavanaugh.
A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.
I picked this up thinking it was about a rekindled mean-girl/nice-girl friendship but goodness, there was much more to it. Daphne is a plus-size social media influencer who has not seen or heard from Drue in years. Drue is Daphne’s former best friend who also completely humiliated and fat-shamed her in public (thus ending the friendship). Out of the blue, Drue starts reaching out to Daphne and when she finally corners her, she explains that she’s getting married and wants Daphne to be in her wedding (mostly because no one else will). When they arrive at Cape Cod for the wedding things go from romantic and over-the-top to becoming a crime scene the next day. Thus begins Daphne’s search into Drue’s family life, friendships, and what really happened that night.
When I saw the blurb for this novel I was immediately pulled in because I was the one that was best friends with the meanest human in our school growing up. Maybe not the absolute meanest, but she was up there. Why? Who the hell knows. However, like Daphne in Big Summer, the good times with my mean friend were so fun that I let them overpower the bad times. It’s truly a sick dynamic and luckily, a friendship that I eventually moved on from. The irony is, we now live about 200 yards from each other in the same damned neighborhood. We wave if we pass each other. She’ll text if her dog is out or to see if I’ve seen one of her kids because they’re late for dinner. But otherwise, I’ve happily moved on. Anyway, I digress.
Unhealthy friendship is definitely a theme of this novel, but the main topic from beginning to end is Daphne’s weight. Again, I was able to sympathize with the character being that I haven’t always loved my body and/or numbers on the scale (who has?), however, it became cumbersome after a while. She is all grown up, a social media influencer making money from her size, clothes, lifestyle choices, etc. Yet, every single moment in the book from beginning to end circled back around to her weight. Again, I understand being unhappy with your body size, but just when I thought she was going to have a positive outlook about herself and her appearance, it would go back to something negative.
The other huge “hot topic” of the novel is social media and how much it controls our day to day lives. I’m not disagreeing with the influence of social media and/or how much time we spend in the social media world. I would like to think that most reasonable, intelligent people don’t buy into everything they see on Instagram, Facebook, etc. But the topic almost felt as if it had just now been thought of for the first time if that makes sense.
Anyway, the huge surprise about Big Summer is that what I thought was going to be a summer beach read turned into a mystery – which I didn’t expect at all. I liked the mystery twist and at first, found the investigations and findings interesting. But then I sort of felt like Daphne became Daphne from Scooby Doo. Everything started feeling silly to me, and honestly, too far-fetched to believe.
So, my overall thoughts… Big Summer was an o.k. read for me. This isn’t one I’ll be telling everyone I know to go out a get it because it’s nothing life-changing. However, it has a strong main character that isn’t model-beautiful and it also includes some real-world situations ranging from mean girls to affairs to social media influences. Not my favorite read lately, but not my worst.
*Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.