ARC Review: “Cool for the Summer” by Dahlia Adler

A huge thank you to Wednesday Books for giving me a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

When this landed in my inbox, it was the first time I’d heard of it. I was immediately drawn to the beautiful cover and I thought it would be a fun romp through a past summer with something a little more. …Well, I wasn’t wholly wrong but perhaps I went in with the wrong expectations?

Content warning: homophobia; on-page but not explicit sex and masturbation

Title: Cool for the Summer
Author: Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release date: May 11, 2021
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, romance
Length: 272 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life.

Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.

Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?

Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.”

To be honest, I’m struggling to put my thoughts into words around this book because I feel like a lot happens internally with our main character, Larissa, and overall, she had a hard time truly expressing herself almost because she didn’t know…how? So enter the summer she spends with her mom and her mom’s boss’s daughter, Jasmine. These two characters find each other when they needed each other the most but didn’t really realize it until it was (almost) too late. The initial few chapters were really disorienting for me as well and I had a hard time connecting and really putting myself into the story mainly because I didn’t care for Larissa at all, especially in the beginning. She seemed a bit vapid, even after she starts dating Chase. I did like how the story is told in a past and present (“Then” and “Now”) viewpoint because we are able to see how these characters changed through Larissa’s eyes and how she struggles coming to terms with it. This also gave Larissa a chance to examine who her friends are as well because honestly… Some of them aren’t that impressive. What I did like, though, is Larissa ending up being true to herself, and for her that was scary. I liked the support she received from her friends as well because…who has a 100% perfect friend group where you’re going to agree on everything? I also enjoyed Larissa’s feelings when she was with Chase and with Jasmine. But…I’m not about that *one* person being the single thing that makes you change or realize you can be a different person, which is a bit of the vibe I got here.

My main qualm here isn’t about Larissa, per se, but rather…her friends. There are a few paragraphs dedicated to Larissa speaking badly about her friends and how her “best friend” basically gas lights her and her other friends… So immediately I’m like, “And you’re still friends with her?” I struggle determining if it’s worth remaining friends with her when this is something she does regularly to Larissa and others and Larissa points it out. As for Jasmine, you come to find out that she is very good at hiding herself in the same yet different way that Larissa does and she feels quite alone due to external issues she doesn’t have much control over, such as her parents’ divorce. Other than that, I actually quite liked Larissa’s other friends and appreciated that Larissa had a strong, core group of friends. In the end, I felt bad for Chase and I’m glad the author didn’t turn him into a person who is horrible to Larissa.

Also, if Larissa and Jasmine had simply talked to one another and communicated openly then perhaps half of the issues they had with each other wouldn’t exist. Oof.

You know, I didn’t give this much thought until now. I found myself later invested due to the characters. Larissa is in her senior year of high school, so it was easy enough for me to put myself in that because I experienced it myself, homecoming and prom included. I also found myself enjoying the “Then” chapters the most because that summer between school year can be pretty magical and for Larissa, it was eye-opening.

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