Title: The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls
Author: Jessica Spotswood
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
One summer will challenge everything the Garrett sisters thought they knew about themselves—and each other in this captivating new novel by Jessica Spotswood.
Kat lands the lead in the community theater’s summer play, but the drama spills offstage when her ex and his new girlfriend are cast too. Can she get revenge by staging a new romance of her own?
Bea and her boyfriend are heading off to college together in the fall, just like they planned when they started dating. But Bea isn’t sure she wants the same things as when she was thirteen…
Vi has a crush on the girl next door. It makes her happy and nervous, but Cece has a boyfriend…so it’s not like her feelings could ever be reciprocated, right?
As the oldest, Des shoulders a lot of responsibility for her family and their independent bookstore. Except it’s hard to dream big when she’s so busy taking care of everyone else.
Told through four alternating points of view, readers will laugh, cry, and fall in love alongside the Garrett girls.
Des has a morning routine. Des likes her morning routine. Her sisters slamming doors and screaming at each other is not part of that routine. Neither is the broken dishwasher, being out of sugar for her tea—-she grimaces as she takes another still–scalding sip—-or sleeping through her alarm.
“Des!” her youngest sister, Vi, screeches. “Kat locked me out!”
There’s a loud thumping as Vi pounds on the bedroom door that she and Kat share. A moment later, she rushes into the kitchen, her auburn hair still tangled from sleep, her freckled face flushed with anger. “Did you hear me?”
“I’m busy,” Des snaps, reaching into the sudsy sink. She needs to call Mr. Stan to come take a look at the dishwasher. And of course no one bothered to touch lastnight’s dishes. It’s Kat’s week, but it’s easier for Des to do it herself than to nag her sister.
“I got up to go to the bathroom, and Kat locked me out, and now she’s FaceTiming with Pen about what to wear to their audition,” Vi fumes. “Tell her to let me back in! I was sleeping!”
“Why don’t you go sleep on the couch?” Des suggests. She isn’t sure when she became the arbiter of all her sisters’ squabbles. They used to go to Gram with every skinned knee and hurt feeling, but lately—-especially since Gram’s knee replacement a few weeks ago—-it’s been on Des. It’s all been on Des: shopping for groceries, picking up Gram’s prescriptions, cooking supper, washing the dishes, and doing the laundry—-all that on top of running the bookstore. She thought things would go back to normal once Gram was home from the rehab center, but they haven’t.
Maybe this is the way things are now. Forever. Dread washes over her at the thought.
“Why do I always have to give in?” Vi demands, twisting her hair into a ponytail. “You just don’t want to fight with Kat.”
There is some truth there. Kat has been extra venomous since her breakup. “I don’t have time for this right now, Vi.” Des tosses the clean silverware into the dish drainer. “I have to leave in five minutes if I want to open the store on time.”
“Okay, okay.” Vi yawns. “Where’s Gram?”
“Miss Lydia picked her up and took her out for breakfast.”
Vi points at the baking dish next to the stove. “Is that a strawberry crumble?”
Des nods. That’s why there’s no sugar for her tea. Des woke up when Bea came to bed at two in the morning after her late-night stress baking. That’s been happening often enough lately that Des is starting to worry. She thought after Bea’s acceptance to Georgetown—-or at least after being named valedictorian—-Bea would be able to chill out a little. She hasn’t. If anything, she seems more tense than ever.
Des feels stretched in so many directions right now and inadequate in all of them.
Vi grabs the strawberry crumble and a clean fork. “Yay, breakfast!”
“Use a plate. And wash it when you’re done.” Des drains the sink, gulping down the rest of her bitter tea. God, when did she become their mother?
Footsteps pound down the wooden stairs, and then Kat saunters in, wearing high–waisted white shorts and a black The Future Is Female T–shirt. “What do you think? Do I look like a modern–day Jo March?”
“That’s my shirt!” Vi protests.
Kat smirks. “It looks better on me.”
Vi plants her hands on her slim hips. “You’re going to stretch it out! Des!”
Des closes her eyes. Maybe if she closes her eyes, they’ll go away.
“You’re calling the sister with the eating disorder fat?” Kat scowls, tossing her red curls over her shoulder. “Nice, Vi.”
“I was talking about your ginormous boobs, and you know it,” Vi retorts.
“Okay, no talking about Kat’s body.” Des frowns. She’s been worried about Kat relapsing since her douchebag boyfriend broke up with her last month. Is Kat’s lack ofappetite normal teenage heartbreak, or does she think Adam would still love her if she had a thigh gap? Des isn’t sure.
“Fine. Wear the shirt. But you are my least favorite,” Vi spits. It’s their worst sisterly insult, ever since Gram banned them from saying I hate you.
Vi’s right. She is always the one to give in. It’s not fair, but at the moment, Des is grateful for it.
“It’s your turn to clean the bathroom, Kat,” she says. “Today, please. It’s gross.”
Kat doesn’t even acknowledge her. She’s too busy squealing and fending off Vi’s attempts to stab her with the strawberry–stained fork.
Des grabs her tote from the back of a chair and whirls around the kitchen for her phone, planner, and keys to the store. “I’ve got to go. See you two later.”
There’s probably a better way to handle this, but it would take time and patience and an authority she doesn’t have. She’s only nineteen; she’s not their mom.
Lately, she really misses their mom.
The purple–haired waitress is back.
Des watches as the girl outside paws through her enormous black leather bag. She pulls out a sketchpad, a pair of headphones with three colored pencils caught in thetangled cords, a bottle of Diet Coke, a wallet, and a set of keys. The bottle falls to the brick sidewalk, followed by the keys. The girl drops her bag and cusses. Des can’t hear the words from inside the store, but she can read the shape of the girl’s dark–lipsticked mouth. The girl looks up and down the street hopefully. The past two days, she’s bummed change from kind passersby.
That’s how people in Remington Hollow are: kind. And curious, especially about strangers.
Des is no exception. She doesn’t have any customers, so she grabs a dollar in quarters from the register and strolls outside.
“Hey,” she says. “Do you need change for the meter?”
“Oh my God. Yes. Thank you so much.” The girl takes the quarters from Des’s outstretched hand. “Why can’t I pay with the app on my phone? What kind of stupid hick town still requires actual quarters for parking meters?”
Des laughs. “Welcome to Remington Hollow. We peaked during the Revolutionary War.”
“Ugh.” The girl leaves her stuff splayed across the sidewalk and starts feeding the meter next to her beat–up silver Hyundai. “I guess. I have to remember I’m not in the city anymore.”
“Where are you from? Annapolis? DC?” Des guesses.
“Baltimore,” the girl says. “I go to MICA. Maryland Institute College of Arts?”
Des hasn’t heard of it, but she feels as though she should have. She’s an artist too, isn’t she? That’s the kind of thing she should know. Her not knowing feels like proof that Remington Hollow is a stupid hick town and, having lived here all her life, having no real plans to go anywhere else, she is a stupid hick too.
Of course this girl is an artist. She looks like one, with her vivid purple hair and mouth and the bright tattoos spiraling up and down her pale arms. Des feels embarrassingly plain in her ripped blue jeans and faded, worn–soft Pride and Prejudice T–shirt. She’s not wearing any makeup, and her red curls are pulled back in a simple ponytail. Everyone in Remington Hollow already knows how she looks—-how she looked at four and nine and fourteen too—-so there’s usually no point in trying very hard.
“I’m here for the summer. Staying with my grandmother.” The girl confesses it like a prison sentence.
Des looks at the bookstore on the corner, at Tia Julia’s next door, at the SunTrust and the pharmacy farther down Main Street. At the wooden benches spaced along theuneven brick sidewalks, and the U.S. and Maryland flags flapping in the wind outside the post office. Down the hill, four blocks away, the river sparkles in the sun. Thebriny scent of the water carries on the breeze, hidden beneath espresso beans from the Daily Grind and the fragrant blue hydrangeas in Mrs. Lynde’s window box.
Des loves Remington Hollow. Yeah, it’s small. But she has never been desperate to escape, to get away for college like some of her classmates. Like her best friend, Em. Like Bea and Kat and sometimes even Vi.
It’s a good thing Des doesn’t want to escape, because Gram is counting on her. Most people are retired at seventy, not running their own business and raising four teenage girls. Gram needs Des, and honestly, Des has always liked being needed.
She looks up. The girl is watching her. She’s pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head, revealing smoky eyes and long, black lashes. Des flushes, knowing that she’s going all blotchy–pink from the vee of her V–neck all the way up to her cheeks. It’s the downside of being a fair–skinned, freckle–faced redhead: she can never hide her mortification.
“I’m Paige,” the girl says, holding out a hand with lavender nails.
“Des. Desdemona, but everybody calls me Des.”
“Desdemona?” Paige raises two perfectly winged dark brows.
Des winces. She’s not used to having to explain. Everyone in Remington Hollow already knows the Garrett sisters and their tragedy.
“My mom really loved Shakespeare,” she explains. “My sisters are Beatrice, Katharina, and Viola. She named the bookstore too.” She gestures behind her at Arden Books. “As in the forest of, from As You Like It.”
“That’s some serious literary devotion. So your mom owns the bookstore?”
“My grandmother.” After the accident, Gram remortgaged the house, quit her job as an English teacher up at the middle school, and devoted herself to the store. She thought it was important for the girls to have that part of their mom. Maybe it was important for Gram to have it too.
Thankfully, Paige doesn’t press. “Are you working here for the summer? I’m waitressing next door. Grandma Lydia got me the job.”
Des isn’t a college student home for the summer, working at Arden to pay for books and extras; she’s been working there full–time since she graduated last June. Even before that, she worked after school and every weekend. Arden Books is her past, her present, and her future. She’ll take over when Gram retires.
But she decides not to get into all that. “Grandma Lydia? Lydia Merrick?”
“Oh my God, does everybody in this town know everybody else?” Paige crouches on four–inch black heels and starts tossing everything back into her bag.
“Pretty much, yeah. My gram is friends with yours.”
Paige covers her face with one hand. “Grandma Lydia is the most—-she’s so—-I mean, I love her, but—-”
“She’s a character,” Des agrees charitably. Lydia Merrick is one of the town matriarchs, owner of the Tabby Cat Café, and an enormous gossip. “Why aren’t you working for her?”
Paige’s big gray eyes dart up and down Main Street like she’s checking for spies. She lowers her voice to a husky, secret–telling whisper. “I told her I’m allergic. Have you been inside that place lately? I loved it when I was, like, five, but as a grown–ass adult, it gives me nightmares. Those porcelain plates are going to come to life someday. And all those cat figurines? They’re going to form an alliance with the real cats and organize a mutiny and take over the town.”
“You don’t like cats?” Des asks dryly.
“I think Snowflake is their general,” Paige whispers.
Des throws her head back and laughs. Snowflake is Mrs. Merrick’s finicky, long–haired Persian. “Not Cinnamon?” Cinnamon is the original tabby the café was named after. He’s fat and affectionate and super spoiled.
“Oh my God, you know all my grandma’s cats. This town is so small!”
“Haven’t you ever visited?” Des doesn’t remember her, and she feels like she would. Even without the purple hair, Paige stands out in Remington Hollow.
“Not since I was ten. Mom and Grandma had a falling–out.” Paige turns toward the river. “Last time I was here, we went to a Fourth of July raft race. Do they still do that? And the reenactment on the old ship?”
“Definitely.” The Fourth of July is a huge deal in Remington Hollow. Townspeople reenact the Remington Hollow Tea Party, a smaller and less publicized version ofthe Boston Tea Party, in which a group of intrepid citizens boarded the ship anchored at the town dock and dumped crates of tea in the river to protest the British tax. Remington Hollow was kind of a big deal in colonial times. Now, men dress up in Revolutionary War–-era costumes and march with old muskets down Main Street. Thehigh school band plays, and the color guard twirls red, white, and blue flags. After the parade and the reenactment, there’s music and food and vendors in the park. Then, the next afternoon, everyone watches the big race across the river on homemade rafts. People get extremely creative—-and extremely competitive. Last year, Bea’s team built the raft that won, and Kat’s raft sank but got the most applause, because she and her drama club friends were singing songs from Hamilton as it went down. “That’s tradition. Remington Hollow is very big on tradition.”
Des can’t tell whether Paige means wow as in cool or wow, what a totally stupid tradition.
“Yeah.” Des doesn’t say that it’s her favorite weekend of the whole year. “So, how come you’re staying with Miss Lydia for the summer?”
“It wasn’t exactly my decision,” Paige explains, winding her purple hair into a neat bun and checking her phone. “Damn. I’m going to be late—I’ve got to go.” She flashes Des a dark–lipped smile and hurries toward Tia Julia’s. “Thanks again for the quarters. See you around, Desdemona.”
Des doesn’t correct her, even though literally no one else calls her Desdemona.
It’s the third week of June, and the whole summer stretches out before her, lonely as hell, except for her endless to–do list. Her best friend—-former best friend?—-is too cool for watching old British murder mysteries or decorating their planners or anything else they used to do together. She’s barely texted Des since she’s been home from college. What is there to look forward to? Everything—-all the work at Arden and at home—-will keep falling on Des, at least until Gram can get around better.
Des bites her lip, remembering the conversation they had about Gram’s living will and her funeral wishes. Just in case, Gram had insisted. The doctor and the physical therapist say she’s making good progress. But Des can’t help worrying. Gram has always seemed young and strong and indomitable. It’s been hard to see her weak, in pain, looking…old. It hurts Des’s heart, and it makes her wonder how their family will function, moving forward.
What if all her new responsibilities aren’t temporary?
The Garrett girls’ roles have long been established among themselves and around town. At fifteen, Vi is the sensitive, bookish one. At sixteen, Kat is the diva: emotional, theatrical, and never afraid to make a scene. Eighteen–year–old Bea is the brilliant, ambitious one, off to Georgetown in the fall. And Des? At nineteen, Des is the oldest. The responsible one.
The boring one, maybe. Next to glamorous, artistic Paige, she felt hopelessly dull.
But Des wants things for herself beyond running the bookstore. Beyond taking care of her sisters. Maybe she needs to try to carve out more time for her illustrations. For making new friends. For figuring out who she is now, a year after high school graduation.
What if she isn’t boring, responsible Des this summer?
What if she tries being Desdemona? That’s what Mom named her, after all. Maybe it’s past time she tried it on for size.
Oh, goodness. Such a cute story– Little Women meets “Gilmore Girls” by way of Sarah Dessen, indeed! (And it only took me until the “about the author”section at the end to remember why her name seemed so familiar–we met her at the Rochester Teen Book Festival a few years back–duh!)
The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls is told in alternating POVs–each sister gets a turn, from oldest to youngest, which was fun even if it did sometimes feel like we were just getting into one of them when poof! it was off to the next sister. Still, I liked seeing things from each of their viewpoints. (The tense of the story was a bit strange, though–present instead of the usual past. It tended to throw me at the beginning of chapters, though for some reason mid-chapter I never seemed to take notice.) It really made understanding their motivations–especially when they made really questionable choices–a lot easier. (Bea, for example–I usually have a huge problem with people who cheat, but seeing her nearly wrecking herself with all of the pressure and the guilt made it understandable, even if she was still wrong. Also, it seemed appropriate that this articleshowed up in my inbox while I was reading her story.)
I already have two of Ms. Spotwood’s anthologies–I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of her longer fiction now too!
Rating: 4 stars / B+
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
About the author:
Jessica Spotswood lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and works as a children’s library associate. Visit jessicaspotswood.com.
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