In her first novel written for the general population instead of the young adult market, Ann Brashares shows us that she can spin a tale as compelling as her earlier work and just as satisfying. In truth, her better-known Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels are truly ageless, so that rather than graduating from “kiddie lit” to the adult fiction, the author has mainly deepened her tone, and added a few more sophisticated nuances to her subject matter.
Brashares is equally deft with creating people and places. In The Last Summer, she gives us a picture of summer life on Fire Island so vivid that I could actually smell the salt air and feel gritty sand between my toes. Likewise, her trio of main characters, 21-year-old Alice, her older sister Riley (age 24) and their best friend from childhood, Paul, are sketched well enough that each becomes fairly real. If Riley is a little blurrier than the other two, I see it as design, rather than a flaw, for an integral part of the plot is Riley’s sudden extremely serious illness, and the scarcity of long scenes with her seems to foreshadow the end of the story.
When describing this book to friends, I referred to it as “beachy and lyrical,” and I stick by that description. Reading this book, one can feel the ebb and flow of tides and time.
I look forward to more of Brashare’s work.