Review: How My Summer Went Up in Flames

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

Review: How My Summer Went Up in FlamesHow My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Published by Simon Pulse on May 7, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 307
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central

First she lost her heart. Then she lost her mind. And now she’s on a road trip to win back her ex. This debut novel’s packed with drama and romance!

Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious.

To put distance between Rosie and her ex, Rosie’s parents send her on a cross-country road trip with responsible, reliable neighbor Matty and his two friends. Forget freedom of the road, Rosie wants to hitchhike home and win back her ex. But her determination starts to dwindle with each passing mile. Because Rosie’s spark of anger? It may have just ignited a romance with someone new…

First Sentence: “I wasn’t always the kind of girl who wakes up in the first day of summer vacation to find herself on the receiving end of a temporary restraining order.”

Thanks to April of Good Books and Good Wine, I’d been warned not to have high expectations going into How My Summer Went Up in Flames. Doktorski’s debut had been high on my must-have list ever since the cover reveal (will I ever learn), so this reality check was needed. Prepared to dislike the novel, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Though flawed, Doktorski’s debut still kept me entertained and flipping pages.

Okay, guys, believe it or not, but I haven’t actually read too many road trip novels. It’s a super popular sub-genre of contemporary fiction, but I only really started reading contemporary novels this past year. How My Summer Went Up in Flames has convinced me that I need to read more of them, because this book totally simulated a vacation. It’s like I got to visit a whole bunch of touristy places I wouldn’t actually want to go, so I can cross them off. Success!

Driving across country with her best friend Matty and brothers Spencer and Logan, Rosie visits so many sights. They pack a lot into their trip. It’s seriously impressive how much they get done. Also, I love how much focus Doktorski gives to the music playing as they drive. Music is essential to a road trip, so I loved knowing what they were listening to. Also, Spencer rules for playing Al Simon as they drove to Graceland. *sings “We’re going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee”*

Doktorski also does a great job with the characters. All four of them felt like real people, though Rosie I didn’t like, and I’ll tackle that soon. However, I thought Matty and Spencer were utterly adorable and delightful. I only wish Rosie wouldn’t roll her eyes and turn her music up over their dorky discussions of Star Trek, because I dig that. Logan, too, though not my favorite, has depths to him. Doktorski captures a lot of the awkwardness of time spent trapped together: the tiffs, the silences, the uncomfortable moments where personal space is invaded.

With novels in a first person perspective, one’s enjoyment can be seriously impacted by the personality of the main character. In this case, the MC was the big negative to the book. Rosie, short for Rosalita, should be awesome. She’s half-Ecuadorian and half-Italian, and she’s very passionate. Plus, she has a distinct personality, so I do give Doktorski serious props for that. However, Rosie’s also seriously obnoxious. She is seriously judgmental, selfish, and hypocritical. She slut-shames, even though she almost had sex with her boyfriend (she didn’t because she wasn’t ready which is great, but also means she’s not opposed to sex before marriage), she judges girls who show too much skin, and she judges girls who drink, though she does a couple of times too. There’s also a double standard to her mean thoughts; Rosie’s predisposed to dislike females she comes in contact with, but sizes up every guy as a dating prospect, not judging them for drinking, bare skin, or sexual activity.

I’d been hoping that Rosie set his car on fire in a bit of overenthusiastic vengeance. Instead, it was an accident that happened while she was stalking him after the breakup. Rosie’s crazy, completely obsessed with Joey. His birthday is even the password to her voice mail. All of this made her really difficult to relate to in any way. Also, I couldn’t support the romance, because she’s obviously not mentally stable enough to be in a relationship. I wish the ending had stayed more open-ended.

For those who can stomach Rosie, How My Summer Went Up in Flames will be a fun, summery read. Doktorski’s well-drawn characters and humor show talent, and I still hold out hope for her sophomore novel, Famous Last Words, to be released later this year.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Four years!’ I shout, louder than I intended. But I can’t imagine what I would have done to Joey if he’d screwed around on me after we’d been together that long. It would have cost him a testicle, I think.”

18 responses to “Review: How My Summer Went Up in Flames”

  1. Shane Morgan says:

    Thanks for the honest review. I’ve been iffy about this one mainly because its in the pov of a crazy girl, but i’m not sure i can like the romance aspect of it ifs it not a sensible one 🙂 thanks again for the review.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, the romance did not go the way I was hoping. If the ending hadn’t gone so cutesy, my rating would probably have been a 3.5. But alas.

  2. Amy says:

    This is a book I have been wanting to read. I hate it when the MC bothers me, but it still sounds good even though she isn’t the greatest. Fab review hon!!

  3. Hmmm. I really want to read fun books this summer and this sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t know how I will feel about the MC though. She sounds like someone I might not be able to connect with.

  4. This is how I felt about this book, too. I loved the road trip aspect, but found Rosie extremely difficult to relate to. Her bad decisions and judgmental ways annoyed me. I liked that she had a pretty full character arc throughout the book and liked that she connected with the girl in Texas immediately. I agree that romance should have been the last thing on her mind after such a bad break-up, but also remember being that age and always liking somebody. Great review!
    -Natalie @Natflix&Books

    • Christina says:

      I’m a pretty judgmental person, but I did not get Rosie’s condemnation of others for things. Especially since she was so much harder on girls than guys. Haha, I do remember being that age and having lots of crushes. It’s more that I didn’t see the lasting chemistry between her and Logan. What bothered me about her flirtiness was that she judged other girls for the same behavior. That’s all. She was a hypocrite. I don’t care that she was crushing on lots of different guys.

  5. Molli Moran says:

    I remember your updates on this one, Christina. Rosie sounds like a real piece of work, but if I can get over her, this one still seems, for some of the other reasons you liked it, like something I might try at some point!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

  6. Faye M. says:

    Ugh… just reading about Rosie’s being a train wreck makes me feel ill and I don’t feel like reading it anymore >_< I'm glad you got a decent experience with it, but I can't stand obnoxious selfish characters, and I reaaaally think Rosie will take the cake for "worst heroine ever" >_> Thanks for the great review, Christina!

    Faye @ The Social Potato

    • Christina says:

      Oh yeah,you would definitely murder Rosie. She’s not likable, and I don’t think she really learns much through the story. A little, but she’s not a changed character by any means.

  7. Glad to see you enjoyed this in the end. I’ll admit I expected a much lower rating from you after seeing your status updates for this a few months ago. And I actually don’t think I’ve ever read a road trip novel before… (CORRECTION: Golden. That counts as a road trip novel, I think. And you know how I feel about that one.) But ugh, I have a feeling I’ll hate Rosie, so I think I should stay away from this one. I’ve never really felt like I had to read this one, and now at least I have a reason for why I shouldn’t. She would aggravate the shit out of me. I can sense it.

    • Christina says:

      Hahaha, yeah, my status updates were sponsored by grumpy cat. I really did like it, but Rosie is fucking awful. It was hard to rate. I think Rosie’s well-written and realistic, but I HATED being in her head. Averaged out to a three. Oooh, Golden. SOON. I HOPE.

  8. Ashley says:

    I legit snorted at your favorite quote. Thank you.

  9. Bonnie R says:

    Rosie sounds like a disappointment. I was actually super excited for this one and I’m not usually at all into the contemporary road-trip novels… Golden is the exception. Golden is amazing. This sounds fun but not at all what I would have gone in anticipating. Your favorite quote is HILARIOUS though!
    Bonnie @ Sweet Tidbits

    • Christina says:

      Rosie’s well done and convincing, but wanting to punch her in the face the whole time did rather put a bit of a damper on things. Golden I do definitely need to read, the sooner the better. This one was still well worth reading for me, but not as awesome as I’d hoped.

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