By: Jennifer Weiner
My Goodreads Review: 2/5 Stars
“But if, in the end, she never lived the glittering, rich-lady life of her youthful imaginings, she’d have a life that made her happy.”
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner is a story about a woman named Daphne and her life as a plus-size woman. Daphne has two very supportive parents who try to instill confidence in their daughter, emphasizing that what’s on the inside of a person is what really matters. In school, Daphne excelled academically but didn’t feel like she really fit in socially. She befriends one of the “popular” girls, Drue Cavanaugh. This friendship lasts for many years until one night when Drue’s real feelings about Daphne come to light. This interaction ends their friendship but begins a new life for Daphne. After years of dieting and self-blame, she begins to see herself as more than just a plus-size woman. Daphne eventually becomes an influencer on Instagram, creating a pretty large following. Her life is continuing rather nicely until Drue shockingly comes back into her life.
Drue is engaged to a famous bachelor, Stewart, something Daphne already knows because of the publicity that Drue has garnered over the years. However, during those same years, Drue has lost all of her friends and has no one to stand beside her on her big day. Drue has been trying to find Daphne to rekindle their friendship and beg Daphne to stand beside her on her wedding day. Finally, after one long conversation and some begging by Drue, Daphne agrees to be part of her wedding. However, from the moment the wedding festivities begin, something seems off about the marriage, the couple and the wedding. It isn’t until the day of the wedding that everything changes for Daphne and Drue.
“I was going to eat to nourish myself, I was going to exercise to feel strong and healthy, I was going to let go of the idea of ever being thin, once and for all, and live my life in the body that I had.”
My review of this book needs to be divided into two parts, just like this story. The two parts are incredibly different, so it only seems appropriate to split up the review.
Part one of this book could easily be considered women’s literature, fitting this genre quite nicely. In this section of the book, the reader learns all the details about Daphne’s life. Weiner discusses Daphne’s weight issues, her dieting troubles and finally, her journey to self-love. The reader is also introduced to most of the main characters of this story: Drue, Daphne’s parents and many others. When Daphne becomes an Instagram influencer, she shows the reality of what this means, detailing the ups and downs of minor fame. Part one is a good story about a woman on a journey to finding herself. I can’t say I loved the story and some parts I found a bit questionable, but it was an exciting read. However, since this is only the first part of the story, I think it dragged on for far too long, including too many unnecessary details because the main plot of this story doesn’t even begin until Part 2. The first section of the book should have been shorter to get to the primary purpose of this story.
When Part 2 begins, I couldn’t help but feel blindsided by the drastic change in plot. The plot, the climax and everything in between seems to dramatically change without much build-up. The tragic fate of Daphne’s friend Drue leaves Daphne, her roommate, and a man she met at the wedding, on a hunt to solve the mystery of what happened to Drue. The book turns from a story about self-discovery and acceptance to a mystery-thriller but, unfortunately, doesn’t do this transition well. It is at this point where I felt myself disconnect from the story.
“In space, nobody could hear you scream; on the Internet, nobody could tell if you were lying.”
The detective work done by Daphne and her friends seems unrealistic and immature. Neither of these three characters has any experience in solving cases, and yet we are supposed to believe they would do a better job on this than the detectives? This seems totally unbelievable for an adult book. I know police officers make mistakes; I know detectives don’t always make the right decisions, but I would like to think they are still better at solving crimes than an Instagram influencer and her friends. I have seen this book be referred to as Nancy Drew like and I couldn’t agree more.
The ending was quite surprising; I definitely didn’t expect it to end the way it did, adding a layer of excitement to the story. However, I don’t see the logic on how and why everything happened the way it did. It seemed like this was some large master plan orchestrated by a seemingly inexperienced person. Even the plan itself didn’t make sense to me, and there were definitely some holes in how it all happened. I didn’t feel connected to this book, and the ending didn’t really change that.
After all the posts on Instagram and book blogs about this book, I was majorly disappointed. The story didn’t resonate with me, it took way too long to get to the main plot, and the ending seemed improbable. However, this doesn’t mean I will be cutting Jennifer Weiner off my reading list; I have heard some great things about some of her other works, so I will definitely be giving her a couple more chances; after all, she is a New York Times bestseller for a reason!
“Everyone tries to put the best versions of themselves across. To fake it. And when they’re not doing that, they’re sitting behind their screens, passing judgment and feeling superior to whoever they think’s being sexist or racist that day.”
Other books by Jennifer Weiner:
‘In Her Shoes’ – 3.8/5 Stars (Also made into a movie)
‘Mrs. Everything’ – 3.8/5 Stars
‘That Summer’ – 3.9/5 Stars