On the one hand, this is a thoroughly lived-in YA romance with two bisexual leads, at least one of whom is struggling with her identity as someone who isn’t strictly heterosexual. Lara Bogdan was your typical mousy high schooler, with a clique of awesome friends and a raging crush on handsome, sweet Chase Harding, football quarterback and all-around American dream. But he’s never looked at her as anything but a friendly acquaintance till the start of senior year, when she’s returned to her New York suburb from a summer in the Outer Banks, looking and feeling like a new and improved version of herself.
First, there’s her tan, then there’s her awesome new haircut. More importantly, she carries herself with a newfound sense of confidence, born of a summer spent in the company of Jasmine Killary, her mom’s boss’ daughter. When Lara’s mom had told her that they’d be spending the summer in North Carolina, Lara had been pretty bummed. She had a sweet bookstore job lined up, as well as several lucrative babysitting gigs, all in service of filling up her car fund. But Lara’s mom hadn’t felt comfortable leaving her daughter alone for the summer while she went south to accompany her high-flying executive boss, and so Lara had to tag along.
Luckily, the Outer Banks were a lot more fun than she expected. Having a housemate her own age certainly helped, especially since Jasmine was both exceedingly cool and surprisingly considerate, bringing Lara to parties and introducing her to all her own summer friends and activities. And that was even before they kissed…
Back in Stratford in the fall, Lara is ready to resume life as usual. It’s a surprise when Chase suddenly starts paying attention to her, the culmination of nearly her entire life’s dreams. It’s an even bigger surprise when Jasmine walks through the doors of her high school, a senior year transfer who’d given Lara absolutely no warning of her arrival, and whose attitude towards Lara now seems to be that of an aloof stranger.
Lara has no idea what to do. She’s always loved Chase, but she can’t get Jasmine out of her head, even if Jasmine keeps sending her mixed signals. Should Lara just pursue the happily ever after with Chase that she’s been dreaming about for years, or should she try to figure out what’s going on with her and Jasmine?
I loved how Cool For The Summer, which Dahlia Adler freely admits refers to Demi Lovato’s hit song, really examined the thoughts of a confused teenager as she tries to make sense of her love life. Tough enough being in a love triangle without also questioning your own identity and fearing the reactions of your loved ones should they discover your same-sex attraction. What I didn’t love (and this is my on the other hand bookend to this review’s opener) was the frustrating use of the non-communication trope. There would have been a lot less silly angst if Lara had just texted Jasmine a “hey, can we talk?” after Jasmine shows up in New York. There was certainly enough angst going on even without avoiding the “do you still like me and want to be together?” talk. The only reason I could forgive the use of the trope was the fact that these are teenagers we’re talking about, and if ever there was an age for jumping to conclusions and assuming the dramatic worst, it’s definitely adolescence.
Otherwise, I really enjoyed this tale of exploring your sexuality and learning who you are and who you really want to be. It was really great that everyone was basically a decent human being, and I loved all the diverse representation as well. Was also pleased that the ending bucked the trend of recent bi/questioning books I’ve been reading — all said endings have been equally valid and delightful, but it’s nice to bring balance to the force.
Cool For The Summer by Dahlia Adler was published May 11 2021 by Wednesday Books and is available from all good booksellers, including