Title: Same Time Next Summer
Author: Annabel Monaghan
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication date: June 6, 2023
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
The ultimate summer nostalgia read, about an engaged woman who comes face to face with her first love who she hasn’t seen in fourteen years, but who she spent every summer with from age five to seventeen when he broke her heart, calling into question everything she thought she knew about their love story, and herself.
“An unforgettable love story…Bursting with the magic of first love, it’s everything I want in a summer romance.”–Carley Fortune, author of Every Summer After
Do take long walks on the sand.
Do put an umbrella in every cocktail.
Do NOT run into your first love.
Sam’s life is on track. She has the perfect doctor fiancé, Jack (his strict routines are a good thing, really), a great job in Manhattan (unless they fire her), and is about to tour a wedding venue near her family’s Long Island beach house. Everything should go to plan, yet the minute she arrives, Sam senses something is off. Wyatt is here. Her Wyatt. But there’s no reason for a thirty-year-old engaged woman to feel panicked around the guy who broke her heart when she was seventeen. Right?
Yet being back at this beach, hearing notes from Wyatt’s guitar float across the night air from next door as if no time has passed–Sam’s memories come flooding back: the feel of Wyatt’s skin on hers, their nights in the treehouse, and the truth behind their split. Sam remembers who she used to be, and as Wyatt reenters her life their connection is as undeniable as it always was. She will have to make a choice.
I usually wait to read ARCs until right before their release dates, but in this case, waiting was not an option! I absolutely loved Annabel Monaghan’s first adult novel, Nora Goes Off Script, so naturally I had to read her upcoming new release, Same Time Next Summer, just as soon as I had it in my hands. And while the new book didn’t delight me quite as much as the previous one, I still found lots to love.
As the blurb describes, Same Time Next Summer is heavy on nostalgia, capturing the wonder and joy of summers on the beach and first love. Adult Samantha has her teen summer memories safely locked away behind her daily life of routine and safely drawn lives. Teen Sam loved to surf and swim in the ocean; adult Sam sticks to swimming laps in an indoor pool, where distances are precise and predictable. Teen Sam, daughter of artists, loved to create, design, draw — adult Sam works as an HR consultant enforcing carefully worded policies and staring at spreadsheets full of data. Life feels well-ordered and complete, with nicely checked boxes, and all that’s left to do is hammer out the details of her upcoming wedding to her perfect fiancé.
Sam once knew the wild, passionate exuberance of teen love, but now as an adult, her definitions and expectations have changed:
There has never been a moment where I felt like he was a part of me; he is just right next to me, a partner. Love like this is so much more manageable, so much less terrifying. […] This kind of side-by-side love feels like a manageable kind of joy. I now understand that this is what grown-up love is.
When Sam’s parents encourage her to consider having the wedding at the local inn near their beach house on Long Island, she and Jack go for a visit just to please them. Upon arrival, Sam discovers that her teen love Wyatt is staying at his family’s house next door, after more than a decade of silence and separation. With Wyatt so close by, the floodgates open, and soon Sam ends up questioning her feelings, her plans, and essentially, who she truly wants to be.
The author does a wonderful job of evoking the sensations of summer — the feel of the sand, the sound of the waves, the sights and sounds and tastes that make up a perfect beach getaway. The joys of summer love come through clearly as well — teen Sam and Wyatt are so obviously mad for one another, but also best of friends and so good for one another. The writing powerfully captures the tremendous pain of heartbreak and how it can change someone so thoroughly:
Putting a person back together isn’t easy, but if you’re smart about it you can reassemble yourself in a totally different, better way. Turn carefree into careful; bandage up your heart and double check the adhesive.
The reasons for their breakup are slowly revealed (I was certain I’d figured out the answer as of the very first chapter — it was surprising and fun to be proven wrong), and meanwhile, we see Sam’s adult life in light of who she used to be. We know long before Sam does that her current life and future plans are not right for her, but it takes quite a lot for her to open her eyes and figure it all out.
There’s some lovely writing in Same Time Next Summer. Sam does quite a lot of soul-searching, and we get Wyatt’s point of view too. Some reveals are a bit obvious, but still, I enjoyed seeing how the pieces came together. By having both Sam and Wyatt as POV characters, we readers are able to see what they missed, or where their perceptions led them away from one another. It’s quite sad… but a happy ending is pretty much guaranteed (I mean, take a look at the cover! OF COURSE there’s a happy ending). The strength of the story is in seeing how these two characters find their way back to one another.
Same Time Next Summer is a quintessential beach read — highly recommended for days in the sun as the waves crash nearby.