Two weeks ago, Carley Fortune released her debut novel, Every Summer After. This buzzy novel is sure to connect with a lot of readers this year – it’s an emotional, second chances romance with small town and beach read vibes. I was pleased to get an advanced copy of it, and despite some initial reservations I had, this ended up being a stunning read.
Special thanks to the publicists at Penguin Random House and to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Seventeen years ago, Persephone’s parents purchased a summer cottage a few hours north of their home in Toronto. Percy quickly befriended her cottage neighbor Sam, whose family lived there year-round. Over the years, the two became best friends and eventually started dating. But twelve years ago, something terrible happened that split them up, and they haven’t spoken since.
Now, Percy is back in town to attend a funeral. She’s both excited and nervous to see Sam again: Does he hate her now? Can they ever rekindle what they once had? Would he be able to forgive her if he knew the truth? After six summers together as kids, now they only have a few days to contend with all they once had.
I will be completely honest: When I was contacted about reviewing Every Summer After, I almost passed on the book. On the one hand, I thought I wouldn’t fully enjoy it (I’m not generally into small town settings or childhood sweetheart stories). On the other – and this was the bigger issue for me – I feared it would be too emotional; I was worried I’d cry my way through the whole book. For whatever reason, I decided to say yes to the book, and I’m so glad I did: I ended up absolutely loving it!
From the first chapter, Every Summer After is engrossing. It’s beautifully written, with characters that feel real and relatable. The story is already emotional and hinting at deeper waters, but it’s also gentle and reflective. The chapters go back and forth between present time, when Percy is 30, and the past, each one of the summers of her teenage years spent at her lakeside cottage. Whereas the present chapters feel contemplative and broken, the past chapters are a nostalgic glimpse of freer times.
This is not a young adult novel, yet half of the book does focus on Percy and Sam as teenagers, and those chapters reflect their age. They could be read as YA meant for older readers, but they work equally well as an adult looking back on life during those tumultuous years. The present chapters, with 30-year-old Percy, fit easily with the past chapters. It’s interesting how much Percy and Sam have changed, but also how much they’ve stayed the same.
During their first summers together, Percy and Sam develop a sweet friendship. I loved watching them grow such a strong bond and seeing how much they trusted each other. For example, Percy likes to write horror stories, and she only shows them to her two closest friends: Sam and Delilah. But Sam and Percy also push each other to grow, too, like with Percy getting so good at swimming. Their friendship feels genuine and completely real, and its limitation to summer and winter breaks gives it an insular quality.
Side note, but one of my favorite details here is Percy’s love of horror. Watching horror movies, writing scary stories – she’s all about spooky vibes. As a horror fan myself, I loved finally reading a book where the girl is into horror. I wish I could read Percy’s stories! Alas, I’ll have to follow her and Sam’s lead and watch some classic films instead.
Percy and Sam eventually developing crushes on each other also felt realistic – especially with how they went about communicating their secret feelings with each other. This romantic relationship is one between two naive teenagers, and it the storytelling perfectly captures that innocence.
Throughout the book, I felt for the characters, especially our leading couple. They feel like people I could have known when I was in middle school and high school. Even as adults, they seem broken but kind. I particularly liked the discussions around mental health, panic attacks, and grief.
There is a mystery surrounding why Sam and Percy broke up, and at a certain point, I guessed what the issue would turn out to be. I’d hoped I would be wrong, but alas, I was finally proven right about 85% of the way into the book. Up until this point, Every Summer After was a 5-star book. But I wasn’t a big fan of the issue and its quick resolution.
Beyond that, though, I did love nearly everything else about the novel. Despite myself, I enjoyed getting to know this small town north of Toronto. (I grew up in a small town and, like Sam, I always wanted to escape to somewhere more cosmopolitan. Small towns don’t usually hold the kind of romantic appeal for me that they might for others.) The summers by the lake truly sound idilic and innocent, and I’d love to spend some time in a place like that.
Every Summer After is a quick, sweet, and emotional read. It’s not utterly heart-wrenching, but it does feel nostalgic and may inspire a few tears. It’s a gentle but moving novel and a delightful debut. I already look forward to reading more from Carley Fortune.
Get the Book
You can buy Every Summer After here – it’s available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
Please note that the above link is an Amazon affiliate link and I may earn a commission on any purchases you make.
|Every Summer After by Carley Fortune|
|Genre||Romance; Women’s Fiction|
|Number of Pages||320|
|Format I Read||eBook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||May 10, 2022|
Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.
They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.
Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.
For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.
When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.
Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever.
About the Author
Carley Fortune is an author and award-winning journalist, who has served as an editor at some of Canada’s top publications. Her first novel, Every Summer After, is your next beach read. The book is a nostalgic story of childhood crushes, first loves, and the people and choices that mark us forever. It will be released on May 10, 2022.
Carley was most recently the Executive Editor of Refinery29 Canada, a job that gave her a lot of pride, joy, and a few migraines. Previously, she was the deputy editor of Chatelaine magazine, where she oversaw the brand’s digital transformation. After being promoted to Editor in Chief, she produced one whole issue, then left to launch Refinery29 Canada, making her the shortest-serving EIC in Chatelaine’s 90+ year history, a fact you will not find on its Wikipedia page.
Carley’s sixteen-year tour around the Canadian media industry has included editorial positions at The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life magazine, and the much-beloved, now-defunct weekly paper, The Grid. Not surprisingly, she likes coming up with new ideas and prefers the beginning of things. Carley was born in Toronto, and spent her young life in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, and in Barry’s Bay, a tiny lakeside town in rural Ontario.
Carley holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University. She lives in Toronto with her husband, whom she met in a magazine features writing class at j-skool and pursued doggedly after hearing about his nonna’s homemade lasagna. They have two sons. Carley is currently writing her second novel.