Read in May 2020
“Of all the stories about my family, the Fernweh women and the island of By-the-Sea, there are two that no one will ever forget. One is the story of how my sister, Mary, and I were born. And the other is the story of the summer we turned eighteen. This summer.”
*Buddy Read with lovely Jenna. You can easily find her blog by clicking here*
Summer of Salt was definitely not the book I expected it would be. The story takes place on the very small island of By-the-Sea, on the Summer our main character Georgina and her twin Mary turn eighteen. The town is mostly quiet and not many people live there during the year, however, the Summertime is different, more crowded, as a unique bird named Annabella has come there around summer solstice every year for the last three hundred years to lay eggs that never hatch. So, birds enthusiasts come and stay for the season to take pictures of this rare bird that they can sell at a good price to specialized magazines while their coming is providing the island with the resources they need to last the year. Therefore, they are primordial for all the villagers, Mary and Georgina included as their mother owns the village’s inn.
The 300 years-old bird is not the only magical thing happening in this village. Georgina and Mary are part of the Fernweh women, a line of women capable of harbouring magic. Mary is able to float midair, but Georgina is still waiting for her magic to manifest. She is growing worried as the Fernweh women’s power has always appeared before their eighteenth birthday and hers is only a few weeks away. The girls are living their last few moments on the island before going away to college on the continent, they expect this summer to be the same as it always is, however, it ends up being particular for so many reasons for both Mary and Georgina. The twins are nothing alike, while Mary is known as a party girl, that went out with almost every boy living on the island, Georgina is the quietest of the two, she only comes to parties to look after her sister and since she is gay, she didn’t get many opportunities to have girlfriends.
“I think a person can be a home, sometimes, just as much as a place or a house can.”
This book had some major Anna-Marie McLemore vibes, which is a good thing because Anna-Marie McLemore a queen of magical world settings & impressive diversity. In my opinion, the magical realism was believable and the mystical atmosphere so amazingly executed, those were my favourite part of this book. I adored the representation, with Georgina being a lesbian, her best-friend, Vira describes herself as aromantic/asexual and with Prue still navigating her sexuality, yet knowing she is attracted to more than one gender. But outside of the worldbuilding & diversity, I had several issues with this book, especially plot-wise. The thing is that I feel like Katrina Leno tried to tackle too many issues for a 250 pages book, and therefore, none of the issues was treated extensively enough.
Let’s take for instance the sapphic relationship between Prue and Georgina. At first, I mistakenly thought that this story would focus on their romance with some hints of magic here and there, and to my dismay, it didn’t. It just stayed in the background without lasting impact on the main character’s development, to a point that the story would have been EXACTLY THE SAME without that romance. I really feel like that’s a shame to add that much diversity without addressing it properly, especially when you give that character a love interest, someone we end up rooting for. Prue as a character was barely present in the book and she served no purpose other than giving a useless potential love interest to Georgina. But this wasn’t the only topic brought to the story but not fully addressed, and even though I can’t mention them all because of spoilers, know that this book made me feel unfulfilled.
“She was tied to the water, my sister. Moods like tides, temper like a hungry shark.”
Along the same line, I was expecting a deeper twin relationship, and I was quite disappointed with it. It was more developed than the romance but not enough for my liking. From the very first pages, I could tell that Mary wasn’t a thoughtful sister, and therefore, I had difficulties to like her and to actually care for her as much as Georgie did. Honestly, if Leno went through with all the issues she brought, this book should have been 500+ pages, easily. Eventually, the length of the book brought new problems, such as lack of depth for the characters (the main character included which is something I cannot easily overcome) as well as an overly rushed ending. The story that started really well in the first third, by then I really thought this book could be a 5 stars material, however, it ended up to be all over the place, leaving me unsatisfied.
Have you read or will you read this book? What did you think about it?