Hang-ups, Instalove, and Blended Families

The Summer Before ForeverThe Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*Thank you Entangled Publishing, LLC for sending me an ARC of this book (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.*

When my beloved mother discovered that I was reading this book, she immediately reprimanded me online, telling me that I should not be reading pulp romance. I couldn’t blame her for jumping to conclusions. After all, that cheesy cover says a lot. Now, although I hadn’t read the book yet during that time, I deigned to defend its reputation, determined as I was to give it a chance. I wanted to prove to my mother that not all YA contemporary novels have frivolous content.

With that in mind, I’m happy to say that this novel was cute, thought-provoking, and inspiring at best. It tackled important issues, such as broken families, sexual abuse, and learning disabilities. These are topics readers don’t normally encounter (simultaneously) in summery, feel-good literature, and I appreciated how these sensitive issues were explored in a very refreshing and optimistic approach. Furthermore, given my divergent upbringing as a “normal” boy in a conservative, tight-knit family, I was filled with sympathy for Chloe and Landon, who were significantly flawed because of their respective backgrounds and hang-ups. I am not a teenager anymore, but I was still capable of putting myself in their shoes. Overall, the majority of the plot was emotionally charged, and it surprisingly made my reading experience more meaningful, memorable, and vibrant.

Unfortunately, I am persuaded to give this novel merely three stars because of its major cliches or tropes. The moment I started reading, I already assumed that a forbidden romance was going to blossom between Chloe and Landon in spite of their imminent, familial connection. However, I was disturbed by how quickly their relationship developed; it was practically lust at first sight! These two teenagers had the hots for each other the very moment their gazes locked, and I was further annoyed by how they could not resist the temptation to objectify each other’s bodies.

Landon was the bonafide pervert of the two, occasionally alluding to the “movements” and “needs” of his genitals. To make things worse, he attributed his amorous behavior to his masculinity, as if to imply that all males were naturally horny. I nearly lost all my respect for him as a protagonist when he briefly considered sleeping with other girls just to help him get his mind off Chloe (at least for a little while). Chloe was of course the overrated virgin, an innocent girl who was weirdly ashamed of her single (NBSB) status. Despite her gradual character development, she also had a generally weak and dependent personality. How so? A male was the one who broke her, and it was also a male who helped her heal. To simply put it, this book reinforced quite a number of our gender stereotypes.

In conclusion, The Summer Before Forever is predominantly substantial in regards to its content. The issues it discussed were very relevant, especially in this time wherein people are often insensitive to the struggles of others. In spite of its shortcomings, this contemporary novel is still worthwhile. Just be careful to keep your Feminist sentiments in check.