Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Book Review: Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 5, 2020 
Publisher: Atria
Source: Library
Other Books By Author: Hungry Heart
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.  Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.  A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most."

Daphne Berg is a plus-size Instagram influencer and is just starting to make some decent money through her posts where she promotes plus-size clothing among other things.  This wasn't always her main goal in life; in fact, she stumbled upon this "career" by accident. A video featuring her standing up for herself in college went viral and this is how she ended up with a social media presence. The video was filmed by her former best friend and socialite, Drue Cavanaugh, who essentially set her up for a humiliating experience.  Many years later Drue enters Daphne's life again by asking her to be a bridesmaid at her glamorous wedding on Cape Cod.  It appears that Drue doesn't have that many real friends (duh, she sounds horrible!) and needs some bridesmaids to stand on her side as this wedding will be all over social media.  So, Drue needs "friends" and who better to ask than Daphne who could benefit from the social media exposure.  Despite her initial hesitation, Daphne accepts and things go downhill from there.  Once at the wedding, Daphne hits it off with a hot wedding guest and things at the wedding take a turn for the worse.  Jennifer Weiner's beach read, Big Summer, bends genres a bit and takes many surprising turns.  Let's just say this isn't your average beach read featuring a beautiful wedding on Cape Cod!

Weiner spends a lot of time in Big Summer giving readers some background on Daphne's childhood and her experiences.  I thought all this character development was quite good and heartbreaking at times as Daphne has to deal with a cruel world. People, including family members, really don't accept her for the size she is.  All of these experiences lead us up to the Daphne we currently know in the novel and I thought Weiner did a great job with the characterization.  However, things get a little confusing from there.

I went into Big Summer thinking this was going to be a relaxing beach read. Boy, was I wrong!  It's been awhile since I read Weiner's novels, so I assumed this book was going to fall under the genre of women's fiction much like her previous novels; however, Big Summer has characteristics from the romance, mystery, thriller genres, and more. I don't want to say too much because I think the surprise is fun once readers are able to process it.  I will say I was a bit disappointed at times with the second half of the novel, because I felt like Weiner did such a great job fleshing out Daphne that the events in the last portion of the novel felt contrived and are there to move the plot along. Also, I still don't believe that after all the things Drue put Daphne through that she would agree to be in her wedding. Most bridesmaids don't want to be in their actual friends' weddings, am I right?  Nonetheless, I thought it was a decent beach read.

A lot of the social media/influencer lingo got to be a bit much at times, but it made you think about social media and its power over our culture today. Sure, things appear great on social media and Big Summer makes you think how oftentimes it's just a facade.  Also, I loved that this book is body positive while also making us think about how media exploits the female body and how society's has unrealistic expectations for women.

If you want a beach read this summer that will surprise you a bit and take you on a wild ride, pick up a copy of Big Summer.  I am still thinking about this one!


  1. It sounds like there are a lot of good elements to this story, but this twist sounds a little weird - I never would have thought this would be a thriller!

    1. Right? The cover definitely only reflects the first half of the book! Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. I have mixed feelings about the book too. Always a Weiner fan, but maybe too much tried to fit into the novel for me. I saved it for summer so I could have used some more Cape Cod scenes. I love mysteries so I enjoyed that aspect of it but it seemed contrived. Weiner’s character development and Daphne’s growth was lovely but does a mystery need that? So, I enjoyed it and I think it’s cool she stretched the genre, but wasn’t my top Weiner book.


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