Review: Summer Days & Summer Nights by Stephanie Perkins, ed.

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Summer Days & Summer Nights by Stephanie Perkins, ed.Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Twelve Stories
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 17, 2016
Genres: Anthologies, Romance, Contemporary, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Short Stories
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: ALA
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three-half-stars

Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

What I expected from Summer Days and Summer Nights was twelve fluffy, shippy contemporary romance short stories. My expectations were not met. The stories herein do take place in summer, though some are not about summer. They do also have romances. However, a surprising number really aren’t fluffy at all, and many of them are genre fiction.

“Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail” by Leigh Bardugo

It’s really weird reading a (mostly) contemporary story by Leigh Bardugo. “Head, Scales, Tongue, Heart” is somewhere on the paranormal/magical realism border. The story’s a bit slow at first and a bit too fast to end, but overall I liked it. So far, with Bardugo’s published books and two of her short stories under my belt, her fantasy works much better for me personally. The characterization of the story’s okay, but the plot resolution didn’t make a ton of sense tbh. 3/5

“The End of Love” by Nina LaCour

Though the premise of this story seems a bit unlikely (who a) loves geometry and b) would sign up for a class they’ve already taken in summer school just to have something to do), but it was so well done. Flora’s parents are getting divorced, and she’s trying to deal with her life as she knew it falling apart. Though the divorce is at this point amicable, Flora’s emotionally compromised by the way the house they all built together is being sold off piece by piece. She finds some comforts in the arms of a crush. Adorable f/f is adorable. 4/5

“Last Stand at the Cinegore” by Libba Bray

Bray’s contribution to Summer Days and Summer Nights is horror. It’s self-aware, postmodern horror of the style found in Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods, though the plots are obviously different. The story’s very clever, a send up of horror, including the inevitable romance. The plot and writing shine here, but the characters are ever-so-slightly generic, lining up with horror tropes. 3.5/5

“Sick Pleasures” by Francesca Lia Block

Block’s fiction often doesn’t work for me, and “Sick Pleasure” is no exception. This story is weird, about two groups of kids (one girls, one boys) who go clubbing and never interact until one of the boys asks the MC to dance one day. All of them are known only by initials. The couple breaks up, but the ending suggests they could get together again in the future. I didn’t enjoy reading this one. 2/5

“In Ninety Minutes, Turn North” by Stephanie Perkins

It’s no surprise that Perkins’ story became my new favorite, since she’s so great at ships and character. Of all the stories thus far, this one’s the most character-focused and one of the most romantic. It’s also new adult fyi. Marigold Moon Ling returns to her hometown with the goal of convincing her ex-boyfriend North Drummond to move to Atlanta with her, because she thinks he’s meant for more and she wants to rescue him from his current circumstances. The character names are the weakest link. The banter between Marigold and North is excellent, though tbh North could banter excellently with a wall so. It’s very cute, and I would have a read a full book about them. 4.5/5

“Souvenirs” by Tim Federle

Seriously why did no one warn me that so many of the stories in this collection weren’t happy? When you label the cover “twelve love stories,” I’m expecting HEAs, goddammit. Federle’s contribution is on point with the summer theme and does involve love, but, as promised in the first line of the story, it’s the tale of a breakup. Then again, I can tolerate the breakup because it’s not exactly a ship of dreams. It’s also not as funny as Federle’s middle grade series, so “Souvenirs” really didn’t meet my expectations at all.  3/5

“Inertia” by Veronica Roth

Another story that failed to meet my expectations. In this case, though, that’s definitely a good thing. It’s no secret that Roth’s Divergent series failed to please me. Surprisingly, “Inertia,” an ever-so-slightly science fiction story proved a vast improvement. Set in a world where science has advanced to allow for patients about to undergo likely fatal operations to sort of mind meld with friends/family to express their last thoughts. They meet up in shared memories. Here, the heroine gets the chance to make amends with her male best friend, estranged since a bad fight. The science is weak, seeming more like one of the trippier One Tree Hill episodes than the future, but the characters are well-drawn, the treatment of mental illness is good, and the romance is sweet. The season of the collection seems thrown in as an afterthought at the end to make the story work for this but whatever. 3.5/5

“Love Is the Last Resort” by Jon Skovron

Not having read any Skovron, I had no expectations for this one. “Love Is the Last Resort” turned out to be a highlight. While not my favorite from a character standpoint, this one stands out in terms of cleverness and construction. Skovron has managed to tell a modern Shakespearean comedy set at a resort, a humorous comedy of errors and everyone pairing off at the end. As ever with short stories, I can’t help thinking how delightful this could have been as a full novel, with the proper space for character development. As a short story, though, I find it a clever bit of craft. 4/5

“Good Luck and Farewell” by Brandy Colbert

Surprisingly, “Good Luck and Farewell” is cute and shippy, though still much darker than I expected from this anthology. I say “surprisingly” not because Colbert doesn’t have the talent, but because Pointe was not that sort of novel. It’s nice to see more of her range in this short story. “Good Luck and Farewell” makes a nice companion to “The End of Love.” Here, the heroine’s cousin, who’s been like a mother to her since the death of her actual mother, is moving away to California with her girlfriend. In dealing with this new loss, she meets a cute boy. Pierre doesn’t fix Rahida’s problems but he relates in a way that helps her take a new perspective. 4.5/5

“Brand New Attraction” by Cassandra Clare

Huh. Something by CC that isn’t Shadowhunters or remotely similar to HP. I hardly know how to process this. Actually, “Brand New Attraction” isn’t bad. It lacks the pretentiousness of Shadowhunters. It’s more like a YA Goosebumps with romance. Fun, though not strong on characterization. 3/5

“A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong” by Jennifer E. Smith

Color me completely flabbergasted. I’ve read two Smith novels, and DNFed a third. I liked The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight enough to give it three stars, but I also had problems with it. I loathed with every fiber of my being The Geography of You and Me. This story, though, is adorable, almost bantery. It’s not soaked in sentiment to the degree her novels are. Sure, there’s some, but it’s that adorable burst of feelings as a crush turns into something more substantial. There’s no instalove, and both characters are genuinely lovely people. Smith establishes a believable connection, and I love the Autism representation in the story. I’ll still be hesitant to pick up her full length novels, but I’m quite impressed with this one, especially since it seems like it and the Perkins story may be the only fluffy, contemporary romances in the bunch. 4.5/5

“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” by Lev Grossman

What a nice place to end the collection. This one’s mostly fluffy and does have a romance, though I can’t say I ship it. The concept is, basically, Groundhog Day, but the voice is great, and I love the added concept of the map of perfect things. The inclusion of Flatland adds a lot, and I’m ferociously glad that I actually got something out of reading Flatland in high school. The only weakness to this story lies in Margaret, who tbh goes to the manic pixie side of female characterization. The resolution was also cheesy as all get out, but overall a very strong story, and a rare one where I really think it’s best as a short story. 4/5

Conclusion

So yeah, Summer Days and Summer Nights is actually a pretty good collection, but, gorgeous as its cover is, I don’t think it markets quite right for what readers will find inside. Still, if you can get past the darker subject matter, it’s worth a read.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif this is supposed to be fun

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