“A story about self-discovery and identity, Dahlia Adler’s Cool for the Summer misses the opportunity to be a true beacon for the LGBTQIA+ community.”Cecelia Beckman, Sheaf & Ink
Lara has been interested in one person her entire adolescence: Chase Harding. And by the time she’s a senior in high school it looks like Chase is finally interested. But over the summer she meets a girl named Jasmine. And she can’t quite forget the perfect summer they had together.
My Review: Cool for the Summer
I nearly did not finish this novel.
There were many reasons that this was a difficult book for me to read. But four chapters in I was starting to take notes. The first question I had when I reached Chapter Four was: did the publisher or Adler consider a sensitivity reader for this book? I question Adler’s portrayal of the LGBTQ characters in her book. It made me wonder if a professional expert, who is themselves Queer, had read Cool for the Summer. Did they give Adler feedback on her approach and certain passages that may read as harmful. If not, then why not?
“What do you call it when someone’s neither a girlfriend nor boyfriend? Non-binary-friend?”Dahlia Adler, Cool for the Summer
This quote struck a cord and not in a good way.
I was trying to rationalize what exactly Adler was trying to say here in context to what was going on in that particular scene of the novel. The main character is at a football game. She’s scanning the crowd and sees her lab partner who is sitting with another classmate. Once I read this line and the character referred to the person sitting next to her lab partner with the list of “girlfriend, boyfriend, non-binary-friend,” Taylor is not given a specific gender. My assumption was that perhaps Taylor is nonbinary?
My Thoughts Continued
But it’s the way Adler wrote this line that made me pause and feel taken aback. I recognized it as being hurtful because of the way the main character tries to identify someone as though it were a laundry list ticked off one finger at a time.
My other concern was the writing of the novel itself. Going into reading Cool for the Summer, I thought this novel would be a mashup of authors Becky Albertalli and Sophie Gonzales who both have written heartwarming and keen novels that often focus on LGBTQ representation. But, sadly, the writing felt flat. There was an extensive amount of exposition and very little witty and authentic dialogue interspersed in between. It felt as though I had picked up a teenagers journal, but not in the way some have described Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Further, there were so many cringe moments: be it representation or Larissa’s blasé social superiority within the high school scene and hierarchy. Compare Cool for the Summer to Tina Fey’s Mean Girls the latter is hilarious, but surprisingly genuine in depicting the sociology of the high school experience.
A Few More Thoughts
Whereas in Cool for the Summer I wanted that refreshingly new aspect of someone who is in the A list group, but is able to break from the mold. That Lara realizes she may not necessarily want to identify with this group of girls and may be better off without them. While at the same time, my hope had been Larisa’s story would be more insightful and empathic when it comes to her identity and sexual orientation.
The one thing that I felt Adler did well was the back and forth between Lara’s present and her past summer. Blended with a “Then” and “Now” it was a nice juxtaposition between what seemed like two separate characters. You began to see the puzzle of Lara’s feelings and her identity shape into something unexpected, but with scarcely any depth or insightful qualities that would warrant the reader to cheer Lara on in her quest of self-discovery.
Without sincere relationships, the novel felt hollow. Filled with overly stereotyped high school drama Cool for the Summer should be given another critical edit by sensitivity readers. Doing so could help provide meaningful feedback and edits to a story that could then be quoted as disarmingly tender.
Happy Reading ̴ Cece
RATING: – Poorly Inked
Author: Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Paperback Publication Date: May, 2021
Audience: 14 and up
Jacket Art: Unknown at this time
Jacket Design: Unknown at this time
You can find Cool for the Summer at Macmillan Publishers
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