Sunday, April 3, 2016

Review: Summer of Firsts by Chen Yan Chang (Swoon Reads)

So, back in January I decided I would add my novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2014 to the Swoon Reads website and just see what criticism I could get as well as if my story was even any good.  I didn't realize at the time that a big part of the website was actually having the other authors read each others manuscripts and do this critiquing.  I had assumed it was just the publisher.  So when I noticed the people commenting on my story also had their own stories, I started adding them to go back and read.  One of the first ones I started reading was this one, Summer of Firsts.  And it didn't take long before I was hooked.  I totally loved this story.  There were days when I would even sneak reading a bit while I was at work, because I needed to know what would happen next.  Here is my summary of the story.

As the title suggests, it is about a girl who is kind of innocent.  The main character is Grace, and for her summer after her senior year of high school, she is going to let her best friend and roommate Jenny take her to their normal beach house for the summer.  The plan is to help Grace, who is pretty much a bit of a book nerd and introvert, get her first kiss, her first boyfriend, basically as many firsts as they can get in.  Jenny is a bit of a wild child, and can't wait to help her friend experience all these things.  Jenny has three guys who she hangs out with every summer that will be on the trip and staying in the house with them.  Adam, very attractive, but very quiet and withdrawn as his girlfriend broke up with him right before the summer so that they would be able to go on to college with a clean break.  Something he isn't very happy about. The other two guys are Tripp, described as a "tattooed skater with a nice body, and Neil who is the "smart Asian with the good body."   Basically all the guys have good bodies and are attractive.  Jenny wants Grace to pick which of the last two she wants to "hook up" with for the summer.  Even though Adam is kind of off limits, or at least not one of the original choices, she still feels a strange interest in him. 

As the summer goes by, she will find a connection with him, as friends, helping him get over his girlfriend, but she will choose Neil to have for her first boyfriend.  Tripp seems more Jenny's speed, with his constant sexual comments and perverted suggestions for the girls.  Things don't necessarily just slip into these roles for the whole summer though.  There will be some twists you kind of expect, and some that you don't.  There will be moments that make you smile at the sweetness, and other moments when your heart will hurt and tears will show up. 

Now if you're one of my regular readers, you know I don't read a ton of contemporary, especially YA contemporary.  But I loved this book.  Grace reminded me a lot of myself when I first went to college.  Can I admit that I didn't get my first kiss till freshman year of college?  And that my best friend my freshman year was totally like Jenny, wild and adventurous and much more sexually experienced than I was.  She wasn't actually my roommate till sophomore year in college, but she did become my best friend for most of college and she did help me get many of my firsts in.  I also loved Tripp, because as I got a little more experienced myself in college, I really began loving to hang around guys like that, I still find them a lot of fun, and characters like that always amuse me in books or movies, they just bring back fond memories of my college days. 

I love this story.  I really hope that it will maybe be one of the books the publishers choose to publish from all the manuscripts posted in this round.  You can go read it HERE.  If you get the chance, you should go read it and see what you think. And if you like it, leave a comment.  From what I understand it is the manuscripts with the most comments and best ratings that have a shot at getting published. 

And, if you want to check out my manuscript, which I feel is so not ready to be on this site now that I've read stories like this one, you can go read it HERE.  And of course there are many, many other manuscripts there of all genres and even both YA and NA.  In fact, I'm thinking I'll go back and take the other NaNoWriMo story I got the farthest with, but haven't finished yet, and re-do it to be a NA story and maybe enter it next year on the site.