Title: The Summer I Drowned
Author: Taylor Hale
Publisher: Wattpad Books
Release date: August 7th, 2020
Page count: 336
Genre: YA, Mystery/Thriller
Trigger warnings: graphic depiction of drowning, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, abusive relationship, animal murders (non-pet animals), off screen death of unknown pet, character death, mild sexual content, underage drinking.
Pre-order links: Amazon | Penguin Books| Book Depository
Disclaimer: I was given an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, however, all opinions stated on the following review are my own.
First of all, you don’t know how excited I am about this review! Not only it is my very first ARC review, but it’s also from one of my favorite Wattpad books back in the day. Back when it was called Sea Glass, it kind of introduced me to english books on Wattpad, as I used to only read in spanish. I’m glad to see the elements I liked back then are still part of the published version, and some of them even improved a lot!
In The Summer I Drowned, we get into the life of Olivia Cathart as she goes back to Caldwell Beach -the town she grew up in- to try to face her fear of the water, as an accident five years ago in that town almost took her life. But more than that, she also wants to reconnect to her old friends, only to find out things have changed a little bit more than she expected.
“I was born here. I almost died here. And in coming back, everything has changed.”Taylor Hale, The Summer I Drowned
The author does a great job a playing with the reader’s mind. Even if while you’re reading you think you got everything figured out, she proves you wrong each time. This is an inmersive read that takes you inside the beach town and haunts you with its mysterious settings, which play a big role in giving the story that eery vibe it has. Not a single page goes to waste, as something is always happening to keep the story going. With all that, it still gives some quiet moments to get to know the characters better, specially Olivia, who I think is the most realistic and well developed.
Mental health plays a big part in this book, and it’s worth saying that I think the author did a great job at writing Olivia’s PTSD. The subject is handled with tact and respect, and it shows that she did her research before writing such a complex character. She, as most of the teen characters in the book, seemed realistic: their thoughts, fears, desires and basically everything that makes them who they are, seems to truly come from a teen’s mind. And I think is really important that authors actually potray teens as exactly that: teens, and not a unrealistic and exaggerated version of them just for the sake of the plot.
Despite that, I think the conflicts could have a little more depth to them to make them more interesting to read, as they sometimes seemed shallow and kind of silly. I think the dialogue influenced that negatively, as I believed it could been done better, because most of the time it was really short and meaningless.
While I say Olivia’s character was the most developed, I also noticed that some of the background characters lacked development throughout the book, like Shawn and Dean.
The characters I liked the most were Olivia (of course), West, Keely and Faye –because even if she is “the mean girl”, I got to understand her and her reasons to be the way she was. Olivia and Keely’s friendship was real fun to read; it seemed genuine and the author took her time to make it realistic, with all its ups and downs, they were always supportive of each other.
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Let me take a moment to talk about Caldwell Beach! This is one of the things I loved from the first version I read of this book on Wattpad, and I realised my opinion on it hasn’t changed. The author made a fantastic job bringing this beach town to life. It makes you feel as if you were there, the descriptions of the different places in Caldwell are detailed, and ugh, it makes me want to go there so bad if it does exist (well… once the crimes stop, hehe).
Another thing I really enjoyed the romance of the book. It was sweet, made me swoon at times, and it had just the right amount of it. The chemistry between West and Olivia is amazing and childhold friends to lovers will always be one of my favorite tropes, but this is not the main point of the story, and i’m glad the author knew how to balance the different aspects of the book.
I need to make an special mention of Miles, Olivia’s best friend and West’s brother. What the author did with his character left me speechless. You don’t see that kind of twist in books, and it put things into perspective about everything I thought I knew about these characters, and everything that happened throughout the book, all the decisions that were made and the words that were said, it made me rethink all of it. It was a very original, unique wake up call both for Olivia and the readers. Any other things I might say about this might get spoilery, so I’ll stop myself here!
In conclusion, this is book I loved to reconnect with, now in a better, revamped version. It has a great message on healing, getting past your fears, and about the weight of your thoughts, words and actions. But it also speaks about first love, friendship and family. I think that everyone that gives those things I just mentioned importance should give this book a try, I promise is really worth it.
About the author
Taylor Hale was born in Southwestern Ontario in 1994 and started writing online in 2007, eventually finding her way to Wattpad in 2015. When she isn’t writing, she can be found bartending at a live music venue and thinking up her next idea.
THE SUMMER I DROWNED is her debut novel.
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Are you planning on reading The Summer I Drowned? What are your
favorite books set on the beach? Let me know in the comments!