Skip to main content

Big Summer

Review

Big Summer

Jennifer Weiner never fails to grab readers with characters who are entirely relatable and --- despite their admirable qualities --- usually have many of the same foibles that the rest of us suffer from. In BIG SUMMER, Daphne Berg is an up-and-coming social media influencer. Her hashtags include #sorrynotsorry and #justasIam, and her blog's name is “Big Time.” She is not slender and has been ashamed of her body her entire life.

Daphne’s epiphany came one night when her best friend and sometime-nemesis, Drue Lathrop Cavanaugh, had arranged for a guy to pretend to like her so she wouldn't feel left out when the "pretty girls" flirted with the other college guys. This angered Daphne when she found out, and her fury went viral in a video. Instead of slinking away from the notoriety in shame, she decided to stop trying to be something she wasn't, and to embrace and love herself no matter her size. She posted the video on her new Instagram account and began getting lots of followers.

"For those of us at home during this pandemic, BIG SUMMER is the epitome of a beach read.... Weiner knows how to make us consider what real friendship is all about and what is important in life."

So Daphne is stitching together a life where her babysitting, her Insta revenue (along with her dog's Insta revenue) and the art she sells on Etsy make her a living. She lives with her high school friend, Darshi, who also had suffered in high school at Drue's hands. But when Drue reappears one day to ask Daphne to be in her wedding party, Daphne is unable to resist. We know what she is feeling because her first person narrative is so on point: “I could feel the old, familiar longing, and could remember how easily she'd pulled me into her orbit with the unspoken promise that, if I got close to her, if I did what she wanted me to do, I'd end up elevated by proximity; looking like her, being like her, having that beauty and power and confidence it conferred."

Drue is getting married on Cape Cod to Stuart Lowe, the star of a bachelor dating show, and the chance to spend time there sounds lovely. But what really convinces Daphne to agree to the plan is that Drue breaks down and cries as she admits that she has no friends. She knows she hasn't been perfect, and says that Daphne is the only person who ever liked her for herself, and not her trappings.

The minute Daphne says yes, Drue cries out for a picture. "Sixty seconds later, Drue had taken, edited, cropped, filtered, and posted a picture..." Much of the book is about how social media and influencers have become a normal part of life on the internet. Hashtags, getting paid to wear outfits, eating at restaurants, having a wedding paid for by sponsors --- it's a new world out there. Daphne and (to a larger extent) Drue are there to exploit it.

We grow to adore Daphne and her big personality, the love she has for her rescue dog Bingo, her appreciation for her loving and wonderful parents, and her honesty. At the same time, we also see that while Drue might appear to have it all --- rich family, house on the Cape, expensive wedding, handsome groom, Harvard degree --- she truly envies Daphne.

For those of us at home during this pandemic, BIG SUMMER is the epitome of a beach read. Weiner manages to pack all the sounds, smells and tastes of the beach into her story. The chill in the air the night before the wedding feels real to anyone who has spent time at the ocean, and the salty aroma is one that those of us who can't travel to the beach right now will enjoy remembering.

But best of all, we love reading about friendship and family. Weiner knows how to make us consider what real friendship is all about and what is important in life. (Hint: it's not money, expensive clothing or millions of Twitter followers.) There's also a murder to solve and perhaps even a romance for Daphne. Weiner packed a huge suitcase for this BIG SUMMER trip, and readers will reap the benefits. You won't want it to end.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on May 7, 2020

Big Summer
by Jennifer Weiner

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501133519
  • ISBN-13: 9781501133510