Big Summer might seem like your typical beachy rom com, but it’s so much more than that. Daphne Berg never thought she’d see her ex-best friend Drue again after what she did to Daphne that night in the bar. In the six-years since they’ve seen each other, Daphne has become a plus size Influencer in Instagram and is a minor celebrity. When Drue asks her to be maid of honour in her wedding, Daphne hesitantly agrees. But things take a turn when on the wedding day something shocking happens…
Not Your Average Rom Com
All of the classic story elements are in place before part two–the girl who seemingly Has It All, the cool job, and the desire to find love. Jennifer Weiner sets readers expectations up for a fun, flirty beach read. The first part of Big Summer is all about showing us the glittering life that Daphne has built for us out of the ashes of the disastrous encounter with Drue all of those years ago. It’s fun to follow Daphne around the city and equally fascinating when we get to see glimpses of the Drue-Daphne relationship when they were at school.
The setup was pretty typical–so much in fact, that when a mysterious hot guy named Nick shows up, I assumed that part two would be focused entirely on their relationship. This is only somewhat untrue, but I wasn’t disappointed when the story morphs into another, much darker genre. I loved the genre-bending narrative structure here. I think it’s really clever. Weiner sets readers up in the best way possible, because following a sultry hot tub scene, the reveal at the start of part two is completely out of the blue.
The Power of Love
Apart from the most awesome genre-twisting surprise in the second act, I like that Big Summer dwells more on the complex relationship between Drue and Daphne. Even though Drue hurts Daphne and is cruel to her at times, Drue isn’t entirely portrayed as some stuck-up mean girl who “gets what she deserves” when she is in trouble. Even though Daphne might agree to be in her wedding to bolster her career, it’s obvious that there’s still a deep affection for her. I like too that we are still exploring the complexities of Drue and Daphne’s relationship even as the narrative shifts, because we aren’t just talking about friendship.
Under the Influence
We’re also exploring the way that women are seen and interrogated by the public eye–on social media and elsewhere. We learn that Nick’s mother was murdered and that the investigators relentlessly questioned her boyfriends, pinning her murder on her promiscuity rather than looking for more clues. This narrative element comes back in a lot of fascinating parallels that deepened the narrative in a lot of satisfying ways. I’ll admit that the whole social-media-is-bad trope gets a bit too heavy handed at times (i.e. when Nick mentions a Norman Rockwell painting where everyone is on their phones and he blathers on about how nobody talks to each other anymore I sort of wanted to hit Nick with a rolled up newspaper and say “No Nick! That cliche is SO tired!) But otherwise it was pretty spot-on.
Big Summer is exciting, nuanced and delicious. It glitters, because Jennifer Weiner’s interrogation of female relationships is razor sharp.