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BOOK REVIEW: Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

"I’m not brave all the time. No one is. We’ve all been disappointed; we’ve all had our hearts broken, and we’re all just doing our best. Make sure you have people who love you, the real you, not the Instagram you. If you can’t be brave, pretend to be brave, and if you can’t do that yet, know that you aren’t alone. Everyone you see is struggling. Nobody has it all figured out.”

As you may have seen from our social media accounts, I spent last week at the beach. I made sure to bring a variety of books to keep me entertained and to feed my reading addiction. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner was one of the paperbacks I brought with me, and the first book I dug into while sitting out by the ocean. This is the first book I have read written by Jennifer Weiner, and after finishing it, I cannot wait to check out more written by her! This was a relatable (for the most part, and I will get into that below) story of a bigger woman trying to find her place in the world of model-skinny women, and not only that, but be comfortable in her own skin, be a voice for others like her, and maybe find love along the way. At least those are the major points that I got out of the story. Let's dig into it all some more!

I feel that the short blurb describing Big Summer does not even do it justice! It is a story following Daphne Berg, a plus-sized Instagram influencer whose career is rising when her former best friend from childhood walks back into her life, Drue Cavanaugh. Drue was the girl that had it all - the wealthy family, the body to die for, the popularity every girl dreams she has, yet she cannot seem to keep her friends. Daphne and Drue had a fight that ended their friendship completely while in college, and they have not spoken since. In fact, it was a fight that changed Daphne's life for the better. She came out of it a stronger, more independent and confident woman. Now, years later, Drue shows back up in Daphne's life, asking for a major favor - will she be the maid of honor in her wedding. Daphne is taken aback and absolutely speechless. As Drue begs, pleads, and dangles prospects in front of Daphne, and as Daphne listens to how Drue has no one who will willingly stand up with her, she accepts the fruit dangled in front of her face. Will she regret letting Drue back into her life even just a little bit? Time will tell.

As the society wedding weekend arrives, and Daphne is settling into the Cape Cod mansion she will stay in for the weekend, things start to go awry. Daphne meets a mysterious man who she is instantly attracted to at the rehearsal party and just happens to end up spending the night with her. Drue's dad causes quite the scene yelling about the expense and utter ridiculousness of all that is being used and purchased for the wedding, causing Drue to chase after him. The wedding morning arrives, and Daphne wakes up alone in bed, and finds Drue unconscious in their shared hot tub. What happened to Drue? Where did Daphne's mystery man disappear to? Who are the prime suspects? Daphne just wants to get to the bottom of what has happened so that her once best friend gets the justice she deserves.

The above description is mine after reading the whole book. The blurb for the plot summary did not mention any type of mystery thriller that would be occurring, so I was quite shocked when I got to that part of the story! The fact that I thought this book was just about a female friendship with its ups and downs, and ended up being a chick lit thriller was surprising but had me so invested! There are so many things that occur in this book that had me enjoying it so much. From friendship, to romance, to a whodunit mystery, I couldn't have been more entertained and got so much out of the story!

First and foremost, I loved Daphne Berg as the main character in this story. I loved seeing her growth and development from a child, to a young woman, to an adult as a plus-sized person. As a child, Daphne was first introduced to there being "something wrong" with her size and weight when her grandmother stayed with her for a few weeks to care for her when her parents went to work at a summer camp. Her grandmother was awful! I cannot imagine either of my own grandmothers refusing me food, restricting me to such an insanely strict diet, and making me an overall miserable child. And that is exactly what her grandmother did! I feel as though that set the stage for Daphne to be insecure, uncomfortable, and unhappy in her own body. That mindset continues for Daphne up until the moment that she absolutely had it. Drue was part of a scheme to "help" Daphne find a guy, and when it all blows up, and Daphne overhears that Drue set it up and the guy was so turned off by her, she stood up for herself. And went viral doing it! Most women, anyone really, would turn into themselves and be absolutely mortified of such a thing happening. However, Daphne pondered her life and actions during the night, and then decided to make a change, to do things for herself. She started that very next day - created her social media accounts, used that video on her own account, and turned it around. She became a voice, a representative, and a confident influence for those around her and the world.

Next, I appreciated Daphne and her friendship with Drue. For the majority of their friendship, Drue was a taker. Daphne helped, or did, Drue's homework, was her ear to listen to her gossip, broke up with her boyfriends for her, and was her shoulder to rely on. Drue used Daphne and then stepped away from her, came back and used her, and so on and so on. I feel that Daphne could see this and knew it was happening, but in rare moments Drue gave herself authentically to Daphne, and I feel that is one thing that Daphne already focused on with their friendship. That, and Drue just had that sparkle that drew everyone to her, and Daphne liked being a small part of that. When Drue came back into her life, and Daphne saw that the grass wasn't always greener on the other side (how Drue had no true friends, really had no family to truly rely on, and how she was offering to pay people to be a part of her day), I think it clicked. She felt sorry for Drue, which then made her think back on their friendship, and she wanted to do this one last thing for her. Then, while planning and the beginning of the wedding weekend, Daphne saw a side of Drue, saw a vulnerability and uncertainty, that she never thought she would see in her. In a way, I think it made Daphne feel closer to her. And then Daphne worked hard to try and figure out what happened to Drue. In the process, she saw a different side to her that I think she wishes that she would have been able to have gotten to know. It was someone that she actually would have appreciated and respected. If things were different, I feel that they would have been able to have become friends again, but for real. Being honest, truthful, and their authentic selves with each other.

I loved the romance that came out of this story! Daphne met Nick on the eve of the big wedding. They spent the whole night chatting, eating, drinking, and getting to know each other. When Daphne wakes up the next morning, and he is not in her bed, she does start to doubt things a little bit. And then the twists involved with Nick! Holy cow! I didn't know if he was innocent, guilty, was exciting to see! I do not want to give everything away within this review, so some of the things we learn about Nick, I will not divulge here. However, I will say again that I loved the romance between Nick and Daphne. They quickly trusted each other, formed a friendship while working to take some names off the prime suspect list (heh heh...their own.. heh heh), and realized that they did form an attachment and true feelings for each other. I am excited that they are giving themselves a chance to see where things will take them. They are pretty opposite in their thoughts and lifestyles, but that just might be exactly what both of them need to grow within their own paths and with each other.

Overall, I enjoyed this story immensely! I loved the friendship, loyalty, and twists galore that were revealed throughout the plot. I was beyond surprised of who was actually responsible for what happened to Drue - I didn't see that coming! Even though Drue did not come across as the best character, I genuinely felt bad for her as we learned more about her and her life. I gave this book 4 stars and it is worth checking out if you haven't already! Have I convinced you to??

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