Best friends Carly, Daniella, Lainie, and Penny – aka the self-proclaimed #SummerSisters – have been coming to the New Jersey shore town of Ocean Park Heights ever since they could remember. And every year, the girls make a bucket list and dedicate their entire summer to completing every item on it, documenting their wacky escapades on FotoSlam for everyone to see. It’s their tradition, and as long as the Summer Sisters had each other, the rocky jetty on the shore, and their bucket list, that would never change. Right?
But then, tragedy strikes after Carly – the mastermind behind the bucket list– unexpectedly passes away. As the remaining Summer Sisters try to wrap their heads around their best friend’s death, life seems determined to throw more curveballs at the girls, threatening to split the Summer Sisters up for good. Daniella is accepted to a prestigious music academy in New York City, Lainie finds out her family is moving to Florida and leaving Ocean Park Heights for good, and Penny struggles to find her footing as she feels ready to leave childhood behind more quickly than either of her friends. What will hold them together with Carly gone and the Summer Sisters seemingly over?
Then, Daniella finds Carly’s final bucket list. And just like that, the Summer Sisters are back! But of course, things don’t always go as planned, and the girls try their hardest to navigate grief, loss, and coming-of-age woes while keeping the Summer Sisters – and Carly’s memory – alive.
Title: When We Had Summer
Author: Jennifer Castle
Publication Date: April 25, 2023
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
SUMMER SISTERS BUCKET LIST
(aka the SSBL)
1) All four of us have to agree on each SSBL item.
2) After a Bucket List is written up and signed by all of us, no changes allowed.
3) Not all of us have to do an item together, but it’s a lot more fun that way.
4) Doing an item alone is okay, but much less awesome (see #3).
5) If an SSBL item is not checked off one summer, it automatically goes on the list for next summer.
6) SSBL items must be documented with pics or video (hopefully both) on FotoSlam.
7) The last item on an SSBL always has to be the same and we all know what that is, so we’re not going to write it here.
8) The SSBL is summer, and summer happens every year forever, so we will do the SSBL every year FOREVER.
We do hereby agree to these rules, blah, blah, blah. Signed, the Summer Sisters:
Alaina C alderon
ï 1 ð
WHEN YOU STAY UP ALL NIGHT, THERE’S A POINT when you stop being tired and start feeling kind of indestructible. Like you could do anything. Leap a tall building. Lift a truck off a little kid. Maybe even fly.
Or hop from one rock to another out toward the ocean, without worrying about slipping. Without even looking back to see if your friends were right behind you.
Penny was in that zone. The no-sleep-totally-hyper phase in between being really tired at 4:00 a.m. and passing out at lunchtime, hopefully in the car on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Every year, on the last night of summer, Penny and her friends Carly, Lainie, and Daniella had a sleepover on the screened porch of Lainie’s grandparents’ house. The house was right across from the beach. They’d drift off sometime after midnight, then wake up early to climb onto the longest jetty in Ocean Park Heights and watch the sunrise.
But this summer they were thirteen. Officially teenagers. And they’d decided pretty early on that they’d have to do something that fit better with how much older and cooler they were. So this year, sleepover meant they’d sleep when it was over.
“When there’s only one day left of summer,” Carly had said, “you should be awake for every minute of it, you know?”
Penny agreed completely. Summer was sliding away, like each wave at low tide after it hit the jetty and rushed back out to sea. She hopped onto another rock, breathing in the salty air, which already felt a little colder, a little more September.
“Hey, I can’t go that fast!” Daniella called. “I’m carrying important cargo!”
Penny glanced back. Daniella was holding out one arm for balance. Her other arm hugged a giant bag filled with three colors of cotton candy: pink, blue, green.
“Ah, crap! My flip-flop just broke!” Lainie cried.
She stopped to pull it off her foot and held it up in front of her face, eyeing one piece of rubber that had come loose from another. “Really?” Lainie said to the useless sandal. “You made it all summer. You couldn’t have held out for, like, another hour?”
“When you start talking to footwear, you know it’s time to leave the shore and go back to real life,” Carly said, laughing, her hands on her hips, her long auburn hair whipping around her face. Penny could see her freckles, even from seven rocks away. By late August, Carly always had twice as many as she started the summer with.
Penny could still remember the first time she met Carly, when they were six years old. She could actually see where it had happened: that stretch of sand down there, in front of Lifeguard Tower 9. Penny had been digging in the sand for an hour, trying to find the little plastic lizard she’d buried the day before. When she finally gave up, she curled into one of her holes and stared glumly at the water.
Then a girl’s feet had appeared in front of her, sand stuck to her skin halfway up her calves. “Hi,” Carly had said. “What are you looking for?”
“Lost treasure,” Penny had mumbled.
“Cool,” Carly had replied, nodding her head. “Can I help? I’m good at finding stuff. My dad calls me Eagle Eye Carly.”
A few minutes later, Carly had pulled the lizard from the sand and Penny had tackled her in glee. From there, Penny’s memories blurred into meeting Carly’s cousin Daniella and then later that summer, Lainie.
Now, the four of them were moving in a practiced zigzag across the stone shapes they’d all played on in the years since. At first, the jetty was a castle wall and they were princesses and witches and fairies and various flying animals. Then it was a ship, and they were all a crew of famous pirates . . . but nice pirates who stole stuff from other pirates so they could give it back to their owners. It all seemed so silly to Penny now. But in a good, we-were-so-cute kind of way. Once they all got big enough and brave enough, they started leaping across a series of smaller rocks to one huge, flat rock, which was a little separate from the jetty.
Rock Island, they named it. This was their place.
Jennifer Castle is the author of twelve books for children and teens, including the novels for BLAIRE WILSON, American Girl’s Girl of the Year 2019. Her YA novels published by HarperCollins include THE BEGINNING OF AFTER, which was an American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE, WHAT HAPPENS NOW, and TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT. Her four-book middle grade fantasy series from Bloomsbury USA is BUTTERFLY WISHES. She’s also the co-author of two non-fiction books, FAMOUS FRIENDS: BEST BUDS, ROCKY RELATIONSHIPS, AND AWESOMELY ODD COUPLES FROM PAST TO PRESENT and FRIENDS AND FRENEMIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE AWKWARD. Jennifer lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, two daughters, and two cats/writing assistants on the edge of deep woods that are most definitely filled with magic…she just hasn’t found it yet. You can visit her online at www.jennifercastle.com.
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