Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Sisterhood Everlasting
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met. Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past. The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love."
Lila and Robert fell in love, got married, and had three daughters. Lila comes from old money and Robert is part of the nouveau riche and desperately wants to fit in. Robert helps to restore Lila's family's shore house on the Hamptons. They should have their happy ending, but things don't got easily. Lila and Robert go through a nasty divorce and they both remarry. They both have new babies at the same time as well: Sasha and Ray. When they divvy up the time at the beach house, Sasha sleeps in Ray's room and vice versa. Both kids share a room, alternating each week, but have never actually met as their parents despise one another. But that doesn't stop Sasha and Ray from sharing a bookshelf, having a seashell collection together, etc, in their shared rooms. So, they both grow up very curious about one another. Their paths collide when they not only meet unexpectedly at a party in the city, but they also share a summer job at the beach, which prompts an informal email relationship. Then their entire family is forced to deal with one another when one of the siblings decides to get married. Nothing brings out family drama like a wedding, right? The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares is an interesting glimpse into an unusual family, but overall, this promising novel fell flat for me.
Sasha is a character I genuinely liked in The Whole Thing Together. She is of mixed-race (Robert is from Bangladesh) and sort of stands out from her other sisters. She has always been curious about Ray and sometimes it's easy to forget that she isn't related to him. Her family is a crazy one. I found myself having to refer to the family tree quite often to remember which daughter came from which mother and who Sasha's mother is, etc. It all got quite confusing, especially because Brashares doesn't focus on just Sasha and Ray.
There's the older sisters (Emma, Mattie, and Quinn) that Brashares also focuses on. This is a lot of characters to get used to in The Whole Thing Together. Emma is probably the most important of the sisters as she is the one that is getting married and consequently bringing both sides of the family together despite their volatile relationship. Mattie also uncovers some hard truths during the summer about their family, so this only adds fuel to the fire.
The best part of The Whole Thing Together was the beautiful Hamptons setting and the old beach house. I loved Brashares descriptions of the gorgeous summer and Sasha and Ray's shared room. Also, Quinn works at the Farmers Market, which was also a great summertime setting.
What irked me regarding The Whole Thing Together was how essentially this story is about rich people behaving badly. And adults no less. The adults wreak havoc on their children's lives by not getting along. At first this was an interesting dynamic, but then it got tiring. I mean I can only handle so much angst from privileged people. But of course, there is a major truth that is uncovered this summer that rattles the family to its core and tragedy strikes as well. Also, there's one more thing that bothered me. There were a few comments about a particular female's appearance and her body type with a side of slut shaming. It really annoyed me and was done a few times. I was very taken aback by it and didn't expect it from Brashares.
So, if you enjoy novels about family drama set in idyllic locations, check out The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares. But if you are looking for the next heartwarming Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, look elsewhere.