Big Summer: Book summary and reviews of Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Big Summer

by Jennifer Weiner

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner X
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
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Book Summary

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the "nothing short of brilliant" (People) Mrs. Everything returns with an unforgettable novel about friendship and forgiveness set during a disastrous wedding on picturesque Cape Cod.

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn't spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn't even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne's no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She's built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend's siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"If you love Jennifer Weiner, you'll love this one. And if you're a newbie, start here." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Weiner's story of female friendships mixes a splash of romance, a dash of humor, and a pinch of mystery to create a deliciously bloody poolside cocktail...[that's] hard to put down." - Publishers Weekly

"Big Summer is a big, fun summer read. Weiner made her mark chronicling the relationships of young women, and her return to that arena will garner lots of attention." - Booklist

"Big Summer is the perfect beach read, but one that's filled with thoughtful ideas about how we live our lives online and the nature of friendship. Get ready for another big-hearted novel by Jennifer Weiner." - PopSugar

This information about Big Summer was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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JHSiess

A Beach Read with Surprising Suspense & Depth
Big Summer, by bestselling author Jennifer Weiner, opens with a foreboding prologue set in 1994 involving a young woman named Christina who is happy raising her son on her own at her family's cabin on Cape Cod. "Her story was almost at its end, but that night, she had no idea" as she sang to her four-year-old son. The story then advances to 2018 and the focus shifts to Weiner's protagonist, Daphne, an up-and-coming plus-size Instagram influencer who has been offered a chance to showcase the clothing of Leela Thakoon. Daphne is thrilled when the attractive garments fit perfectly and make her look and feel "like the vest version of" herself. A collaboration is born.

In her first-person narrative, Daphne relates how she came to be a young woman who has eschewed dieting and is determined to simply be true self. As the only child of doting parents, she had no idea she was overweight until a fateful weekend with her body size-obsessed grandmother. That was the point at which her psyche was irrevocably altered, and from which she gradually "learned every trick for taking up as little space as possible and not asking for much." She describes her first day at the exclusive new school where her father taught, but a scholarship was required in order for her tuition to be paid, and meeting the other students. Two in particular play prominent roles in Daphne's story. Darshi, who, as the story opens, has been her faithful friend for many years and her roommate for the past four. And Drue Cavanaugh.

Weiner describes Drue as a "thinly veiled Ivana Trump-like" character -- the wealthy and glamorous girl who is the most popular in the school. The other girls emulate her, craving her attention and approval. Shockingly, Drue embraces Daphne on her very first day at school, even inviting her to eat lunch with her and her friends. But Drue is manipulative and calculating, and Daphne details specific instances of Daphne using and abusing her. Still, Daphne remained her loyal friend throughout school, writing papers for her, keeping her secrets, covering for her when she cut class or was too hungover to function. The friendship, such as it was, endured because even though Drue repeatedly abused Daphne's generous spirit and her trust, Daphne still wanted to be like her: beautiful, funny, self-assured, and decidedly cool.

At long last, however, Drue goes too far and a particularly cruel machination causes Daphne to stand up for herself and declare she has had enough. The incident is videotaped and goes viral, transforming Daphne's attitude and life. She changes the name of her blog from "Daphne's Craft Corner" to "Big Time," vows to focus on her health and well-being, rather than her weight, and six years pass during which she has no contact with Drue.

But Drue reemerges, appearing in person when Daphne ignores her emails and texts. And she has a surprising request. She wants Daphne to be her maid-of-honor when she marries in a lavish ceremony on Cape Cod. She pitifully insists that she has no close female friends, has missed Daphne, and acknowledges that her past behavior was horrible. She blames, in part, her parents' dysfunctional marriage and her lack of a relationship with her dismissive father, who has had multiple affairs over the years. She even offers to pay Daphne. Daphne is torn -- resolved not to get reeled back into Daphne's life and the drama their friendship inures, but ultimately swayed by happy memories of time spent together as young girls.

Daphne also recognizes that she can parlay the event into Instagram posts featuring photos taken in a stylish setting at one of the biggest social events of the summer. She relents, despite her misgivings and a strong hunch that she is being used by Drue. Daphne's number of Instagram followers grows as soon as Drue begins posting about the wedding and Daphne's role in it, and Daphne struggles to escape her uneasiness. But Darshi is direct, warning Daphne that Drue will hurt her again and when she does, she will not be there to comfort Daphne, aptly calling Drue her "Kryptonite."

The story veers in a direction most readers won't see coming. The party at the estate the night before the wedding proves to be a magical one for Daphne when she meets a handsome and charming man who wants only to spend time with her. But the party is disrupted by a loud argument between Drue's parents that sends the bride-to-be retreating to her room. The book shifts from women's fiction to a murder mystery, with Daphne searching for two mystery men: the one she caught lurking outside Drue's door the previous night, as well as the one with whom she spent the night who disappears before she wakes up. Worse, Daphne, like all of the other guests, is questioned by the police, and becomes convinced that she could be viewed by the authorities as a suspect. The police are motivated to find the killer quickly, after being embarrassed by their incompetent handling of a murder that occurred in the area years ago. Darshi, being the loyal friend that she has always been, rushes to Daphne's side and they begin sleuthing, determined to unmask the murderer.

Weiner pulls off the genre-switch seamlessly, her cleverly-constructed, intricate plot unfolding during the latter half of the story. She examines the dark side of social media in a credible manner, revealing the ways in which some of her characters connive to use their status as influencers -- and other characters -- to attain fame and wealth. She deftly pulls all the loose threads into a cohesive story in which every character's significance becomes apparent -- including Christina and her son, Aidan, the subjects of the prologue that most readers will have forgotten all about by that juncture.

Daphne and Drue are fully developed characters, and as the story progresses, Weiner highlights the traits that differentiate them, as well as their common humanity. Weiner makes Drue a sympathetic character by exposing the truth about her family and upbringing, illustrating that outward appearances are, of course, deceiving. Readers come to understand the environment and lessons that made Drue who she is. Daphne's narration hits all the right notes as she describes her own familial relationships and home life, as well as her internal struggle to accept and love herself. Daphne is intelligent, self-deprecating, insecure, tenacious, and, most importantly, highly self-aware. She is likable, and has a strong moral center and commitment to justice. Female readers will recognize aspects of themselves in Daphne, whose emotional battles are almost universally relatable. The complicated, sometimes hilarious and frequently heartbreaking relationship between Daphne and Drue is believably and compassionately portrayed by Weiner as is her depiction of the love, envy, exasperation, and, finally, understanding and empathy Daphne feels for the woman who is so consequential in her life.

Weiner has succeeded at making Big Summer a witty and enjoyable beach read, as well as an engrossing exploration of the contradictions between real and virtual life. The book is also a surprisingly thought-provoking examination of friendship and how profoundly the friends we choose can impact our lives.

Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.

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Author Information

Jennifer Weiner Author Biography

Jennifer Weiner grew up in Connecticut and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English literature from Princeton University in 1991. She worked as a newspaper reporter in central Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Philadelphia, where she was a feature writer and columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. She is the author of the novels Good in Bed (2001); In Her Shoes (2002), which was turned into a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine; Little Earthquakes (2004); Goodnight Nobody (2005); the short story collection The Guy Not Taken (2006); Certain Girls (2008); Best Friends Forever (2009); Fly Away Home (2010); Then Came You (2011); The Next Best Thing (2012); All Fall Down (2014), and Who Do You Love (2015). She is also the author of two middle-...

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