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My Summer of Love by Helen Cross

In YA Lit on January 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm
My Summer of Love by Helen Cross

My Summer of Love by Helen Cross

Title: My Summer of Love

Author: Helen Cross

Genre: YA Fiction

Rating: ***/****

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Mona is a young teenage girl living in Yorkshire finding herself rather lonely & bored with her existence. Her mother has passed away from cancer, her sister has just married & had children, leaving her all alone to wonder what her role as a woman should be. She finds more comfort in looking after animals, to show that she doesn’t care about people, but it’s rather obvious that she’s dying to have a friend. What turns her life around is when she’s asked to befriend a girl who has recently got out of boarding school, for what’s hinted as general difficulty in making friends or getting along with others. Tamsin doesn’t seem like she’d have any difficulty considering she’s wealthy, goodlooking, & confident. Mona being a working class girl with self-esteem issues latches on to Tamsin & revels in her upper middleclass privleges. But all isn’t well with Tamsin who lost her sister, Sadie, to anorexia. They bond with each other over their grief. Soon,they take it upon themselves to move in with each other while Tamsin’s parents are split up & develop an unhealthy relationship with each other, though neither is completely devoted & are both left wondering at times if it’s all an act. Are they just acting out how they were treated by other women? Are they really in love with each other? Is it a rejection of the roles society & family have given them?

Cross really hammers home a lot of the frustration young girls have to deal with since they both lack female figures in their lives, neither girl is fully able to understand what a proper woman should be. All they have left is pop culture & women they despise on a personal level to emulate & imitate. They learn that it’s dangerous to be a woman, because her appearance could attract the wrong kind of attention or even cause her to be unloved. Both girls on multiple occasions talk about what makes their appearances good or bad and make comments that lead us to believe they do not understand what a healthy attraction to women should be (confusing exploitation with adoration), & are jealous of their older sisters. In the background, there is an ominous feel to the story. A girl is missing & Mona assumes her to be dead & frequently imagines her body lying at the bottom of a lake.

For one summer, both Mona & Tamsin decide to live life by their own rules, disregarding what harm it causes to those around them or anybody who comes within their path. Cross’s work is a magnificent representation of the effects of class differences, exploitation of women, & cruelty of young girls. It’s a tough read for the first thirty pages, but afterwards the story builds & you’ll keep turning the pages.

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