Today I’m reviewing one of my absolute favorite books of the year! This is one I’ll be screaming about for the rest of 2021. Before I get to my review, read on for a bit about the book.
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Title: Cool for the Summer
Author: Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, romance
Release date: May 11, 2021
Synopsis: “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.“
Lara has spent most of high school crushing on Chase Harding, and now it’s senior year, and he’s finally noticing her. Lara can’t believe she’s about to get the guy of her dreams–the one problem? There’s someone else she can’t get off her mind, and that person is most definitely not a guy. It’s Jasmine, the girl that Lara spent a perfect, romantic, and confusing summer with and who she parted ways with at the end of the summer. The even bigger problem: Jasmine just walked through the doors of Lara’s school. How will Lara choose between the guy of her dreams and the girl who has her heart?
Cool for the Summer was one of my most-anticipated reads of the year, and it absolutely exceeded my expectations! This YA contemporary features a love triangle, but at its core it’s really about rethinking what you thought you wanted and who you thought you were. Alternating between ‘then’ and ‘now,’ the novel reveals bits and pieces of Lara & Jasmine’s summer, while Lara tries to figure out her sexuality and process her feelings for Jasmine in the present timeline. Lara is thrilled that Chase is finally returning her crush but her lingering feelings for Jasmine are forcing her to interrogate what she really wants, and who she really is.
Cool for the Summer features some honest, realistic bi and questioning representation. Lara’s confusion over her feelings and her anxiety over trying to understand her identity resonated deeply with my own memories of being a queer teen trying to figure out my identity. Dahlia Adler writes about questioning sexuality in such an honest, raw, and vulnerable way that I know will make Cool for the Summer hit home with many teen readers. This book also tackles biphobia and bi stereotypes head-on, which is so important to see in YA.
I loved that this book has two queer Jewish girls center stage–Lara is Ashkenazi and her mother is an immigrant from Russia, while Jasmine is Sephardi and hails from a Syrian family. As a queer Jewish reader, I loved seeing this representation and especially loved that Dahlia crafted two fleshed out characters who had very different (but equally valid) relationships to Judaism. In addition to the bi and Jewish rep, there were also background/supporting characters who were Black, Latinx, Asian, gay, nonbinary, and aroace.
This YA contemporary also deals with growing up and friendships changing. For years, Lara has lived in her best friend’s shadow and followed her lead. After returning from her transformative summer with Jasmine, Lara finds herself longing to be her own person, which creates tension in her friend group. I loved seeing Lara finally work up the courage to embrace her own interests. Lara is passionate about romance novels and throughout the book, she begins to draft one of her own while working at a local bookstore. It was so satisfying to see her come into her own and make her own choices.
There’s so much to love about Dahlia’s writing: the witty banter, the realistically messy characters, the diverse cast. I especially appreciated that Cool for the Summer was a short, fast-paced novel. As a teen services librarian, one of the requests I get the most is for shorter YA books, and I’m so glad to add this one to my ‘under 300 pages’ mental list to recommend to teens. I love how the book holds such a strong sense of atmosphere in the dual perspectives; ‘then’ is set during the dreamy summertime in the Outer Banks, while ‘now’ takes place in Lara’s smaller NY hometown at the start of senior year. The alternating timelines maintained momentum and both stories move along at a perfect pace. I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened during Lara and Jasmine’s summer, while also desperately needing to know if they would find their way back to each other in the present timeline.
Cool for the Summer will undoubtably be on my list of 2021 favorites come the end of the year. This YA romance is light and summery, while also tackling big questions of identity. It’s an anthem for queer girls who are figuring out who they are and what they want for themselves, and it’s a celebration of those pivotal teen summers that shape who you are. I know Cool for the Summer will be a huge hit with readers who enjoy Sophie Gonzales, Becky Albertalli, and Laura Silverman. And it’s absolutely a must-read for fans of Demi Lovato or the movie Grease! Lara’s story of first love and discovering your identity is one that I know will find a special home in so many teens’ hearts.
Thank you to Wednesday Books for the review copy!