By Ekta R. Garg
May 24, 2017
Genre: YA fiction
Rated: Bypass it
A teenager finds the summer bucket list of her recently deceased older sister. She decides to complete the list and hopes doing so will help her find some comfort in losing the one person she idolized the most. Author Rachel Bateman gives young adult readers this somewhat sappy but ultimately disappointing story in her novel Someone Else’s Summer.
The night of Storm Holloway’s high school graduation should be one of celebration for the Holloway family; instead it turns into a horrific event. After refusing a ride home with her classmate and next-door neighbor, Cameron, Storm dies in a car accident. The town of Muscatine, Iowa, falls into shock, and the Holloway family is devastated.
Hardest hit is Anna, Storm’s younger sister by 11 months. Anna worshipped Storm, following her and Cameron around when they were all kids, wishing she had Storm’s confidence. Maybe, Anna reasons, Storm’s surety about herself came from being a cancer survivor. Maybe it came from not caring what others thought about her eclectic style. As one of the popular kids, Anna always ran with the “in” crowd but Storm always seemed more secure.
Now Anna and her parents must grapple with their grief. Her parents struggle with the loss of a child and don’t know how to help Anna who consoles herself one day by visiting Storm’s room. There she finds Storm’s summer bucket list, which includes a road trip to North Carolina where Storm had accepted college admission for the coming fall. All of the adventures on the list feel like Storm and unlike her all at the same time to Anna, and on the spur of the moment she decides to complete it. Maybe, she reasons, finishing what Storm hadn’t even started will bring the two closer in some way.
Anna shares her intentions with Cameron who insists on coming along. The two get into Storm’s stick shift car and drive from Iowa to North Carolina, spending the road trip reminiscing about Storm and challenging one another through the list. As they go from one item on the list to the next, they will have to decide how their own relationship moves forward in light of their memories of Storm and what she meant to both of them.
Author Rachel Bateman cares about her characters, and her concern for them comes across on every page and in every chapter. Unfortunately that deep affection for Anna and Cameron does not translate to a convincing story. Anna’s parents seem grossly isolated in their own mourning; with Storm’s death occurring before the book begins, readers never get a chance to get to know Anna and Storm’s parents. Bateman may intend for her target audience to focus on Anna and Cameron, but by doing so she inadvertently relegates Anna’s parents to stereotypes.
Anna’s grief, too, comes across as disjointed. For pages at a time, she thinks of nothing but her sister. Then she bounces right back into the tropes of the teenage world. The book almost portrays Anna as two separate people: the Anna who lost her sister and the Anna who wants to hang out with her friends. Each of them comes across as distinct from the other, and neither of them feel fully relatable.
The road trip Anna and Cameron take comes off as more of an excuse for their romance to blossom. Some of Storm’s bucket list items seem downright mundane—get a tattoo; kiss someone in the rain—and that’s precisely why, as Anna completes the items one by one, her accomplishment in doing so feels just as mundane. Because readers never meet Storm directly, they never get to understand just why these particular bucket list adventures would have made a difference to her.
The “big reveal” at the end of the book, then, feels forced. Anna and Cameron keep insisting that Storm was different, reminding one another that “you know how Storm was,” but readers don’t and therefore can’t relate to the climax. With this book checking off so many other criteria of a YA novel, Anna’s big moment may not even come as a surprise to most readers.
Those looking for a fast summer read that doesn’t really require much alertness might want to pick up this book; otherwise I recommend readers Bypass Someone Else’s Summer.