Summer Days & Summer Nights includes twelve small stories that come together to be far greater than the sum of their parts.
Rating for each of the stories:
(From here on this review will contain spoilers.)
Head, Scales, Tongue, Tale by Leigh Bardugo– 4/5 stars
“There are monsters everywhere, tsigele,” she said. “It’s always good to know their names.”
It starts with Bardugo’s short story, which I was super excited for. I STILL think about Kaz from Six of Crows, so this tale made me even more giddy for Crooked Kingdom and revisiting Leigh’s worlds.
Magic Realism fills this realist world and it follows the events of Gracie, Eli, and Annalee Saperstein. I loved this tale because magical realism is my all-time favorite genre and combined with Leigh Bardugo’s talent, it instantly became one my favorite stories from the anthology.
Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail includes family, friendships, a hint of a crush, and a mysterious sea monster.
I loved how Leigh captured the start of a crush so damn perfectly:
“The ride home was like a kind of punishment—cool air rushing through the windows, the radio turned down low, this strange, unwanted feeling beating a new rhythm in her chest. The dark road spooled out in front of them. She wished she were home. She wished they would never stop driving.”
I did get a bit confused towards the end, but that beginning was so good— Ruth is still on my mind.
The End of Love by Nina LaCour– 2/5 stars
Flora is having a rough time with her parents divorcing and her indecision about everything. So to get out of the house for the summer, she decides to sign up for a geometry summer class where she meets her friends from freshman year, and even her old-time crush— Mimi Park.
I kind of despise geometry, so sitting through those lessons again inside someone else’s head was… interesting.
Also, I don’t know where the main character lives, but in what imaginary world does summer school feel like this:
“She reminds me of Alice in the tree, before she goes to Wonderland. I climb onto a branch and sit with my legs dangling. We could hurl ourselves into the ocean with just one push of our limbs, but it also feels safer, more peaceful, than any place has felt for a very long time.
It feels the way I thought summer school might feel.”
Summer school is one of the most stressful things that a high school student can go through (at least, in my case), so I don’t know why she thought it was going to be something magical??
Also also, the overall storyline felt a little rushed and the characters weren’t really memorable— I felt like they were trying too hard to be relatable/funny? But they all just sounded a bit too pretentious for me:
“So what compelled you to come camping with the misfits?” Travis asks.
“What makes you misfits?”
“Well, to begin,” Mimi says, “we’re all terrible at math.”
“And we’re all mixed,” Travis says. “Mimi’s half Korean American and half white, I’m half Mexican and half white, and Hope? Well, Hope’s got it rougher than anyone.”
Hope nods in mock solemnity and says, “Half French, half Dutch.”
“Besides all that,” Mimi says, “we’re, like, the only group of friends in the history of high school that has never had a fight, never fallen in love with each other, and never made out with another one’s significant other.”
Unfortunately, this one didn’t work in my favor.
Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray– 3.5/5 stars
“This is not a night for the tragedies of the past. This is about avoiding the tragedies of the future.”
It’s the last night before the old Cinegore Theater, a horror movie palace, is going to be pulverized into dust. Kevin is working the concession stand for the last time with his friend Dave and “the object of his unrequited affections”, Dani García.
“The Cinegore featured state-of-the-art details like Smell-O-Vision, Tingler shocker seats, skeletons that zoomed above the audience’s heads on an invisible wire, and the only screen outfitted for 3-D in a forty-mile radius. People used to come from as far away as Abilene to see a first run. ”
This sounds truly terrifying just from reading, I can’t even imagine how scary it is when you experience it.
For their last working night, the Cinegore screens “I Walk This Earth”, a seemingly cursed movie that has only a single existing copy, and it’s in the hands of this theater.
“All the people who worked on this movie died in mysterious ways,” I continued. “The lead actress, Natalia Marcova, hung herself in a cheap motel room. Teen heartthrob Jimmy Reynolds was beheaded when he crashed his car into a tree. The mileage on his odometer? Six hundred sixty-six miles.”
“Fighting a grin, I said, louder, “Alistair was found facedown on his bed, a pentagram scrawled on the floor, his heart nailed to the center of it.” I stopped to enjoy the audience’s squirms. “But the creepiest part? When director Rudolph Van Hesse was on his deathbed, he confessed that he’d sold his soul to the devil to make the film, and that it had the power to corrupt anyone who watched it. ‘There is evil woven into this film. A powerful darkness shines out from each frame. It must not be seen by human eyes!’”
This story really surprised me for the better. It definitely had its scary moments— fun fact about me: I cannot handle scary things at all, I mean I could literally feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck whenever the movie was mentioned. Not my brightest idea reading this at night.
But (thankfully) it also featured truly funny moments that made me laugh out loud multiple times:
“You should let me draw you sometime.”
My face went hot at the idea of posing for Dani, maybe on her bed. Shit. I did not want to get sprung now. “Um. Like in Titanic?” I splayed my hand against the wall. “Jack! Ja-a-ack!”
Dani laughed. “Just for that, I’m never giving back your jacket. It’s mine now.”
I honestly don’t know what to take from that ending because it felt a little ridiculous, but overall it was an enjoyable read.
Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block– no rating
I decided to DNF this because I just couldn’t get used to the writing style and the characters were all named “M, J, and I met L”, so I kept getting confused about who we were talking about.
In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins– 4.5/5 stars
This was my most anticipated read of the anthology, I absolutely adored North and Marigold in My True Love Gave to Me. I’m so glad that Stephanie decided to write about them because it was everything I never knew I needed.
The story takes place six months later, we follow nineteen-year-old Marigold Moon Ling and her relationship with North Drummond.
Turns out that North broke up with Marigold in a Bed Bath & Beyond parking lot last spring.
And here I was, fully expecting cutetsy-feels throughout this story, but then I find out that they’re broken up?
I was truly surprised and heart-broken. They were so good together in their first story.
The tale continues when Marigold decides to come visit North, who is now working as funicular operator.
In the first story, North helped to heal Marigold. This time, she helped to heal him.
And when they finally get to talk, it made me tear up one too many times.
“So, was my interpretation correct?” she asked. “Are you officially a vegetarian?”
“Your mom would be proud.”
“She’d ask why you still eat dairy.”
North laughed unexpectedly. Her heart panged in response. He had a great laugh—funny and deep. “How’s she doing, anyway?”
“Good. Pretty good, at least.”
This physically hurts me.
“North looked strangely stung. He stumbled to his feet. “No.”
“No? What do you mean, no?”
“I didn’t dump you.”
“North, I was there. You broke up with me.”
“Because you were leaving and I couldn’t go with you! I didn’t want to.”
Marigold shook her head in confusion. “You didn’t want to leave?”
“I didn’t want to break up with you.”
“But … but you did.”
His shoulders drooped miserably. “I know.”
These two are killing me.
But how did I forget how adorable they were together?
Seriously, North is so funny and caring and I’m swooning:
“His steady gaze never left hers as he engaged with the outdated controls, and the car lurched into its downward trajectory. “We, of the North Carolina State Parks System, do hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to Mount Mitchell today—”
Marigold smiled and nodded her head.
“—but not so much that you feel the urge to visit us again. We’re very busy, and there are other tourists to meet. The world is brimming with tourists. We won’t be thinking about you, so you should stop thinking about us. Just stop it. Right now.”
The other passengers continued to laugh.
Marigold gave North an exaggerated pout.
“I know. It’s hard.” His mischievous gleam intensified. “This is a magnificent mountain. It’s tall and stately and—some might say—incredibly handsome.”
This guy. I missed him.
And I don’t know how Stephanie does it, but her romances never disappoint me. I still have chills.
“Home,” Marigold said. She was filled with happiness and sunlight.
Between the evergreens, the first fireflies of the night materialized. They blinked in the dusk of the setting sun, a reminder that light was a recurring state.
North helped her off the fence. “Let’s go home.”
I am so happy that they are happy.
Also, incredible fan art by Giovana Medeiros:
Souvenirs by Tim Federle– 3/5 stars
This follows Matty and Kieth, both working at a theme park for the last day, which coincidentally also happens to be their breakup day.
I didn’t really like Kieth because as Matty’s mom says, “There’s a fine line between charming and manipulative.”
But his mother was great, and I adored how close Matty was with her.
“She listens to me cry for ten seconds, maybe even twenty, maybe even a minute, and then she goes, “Hon?”
“Yeah? Time to man up?”
“No. I think there’s nothing more manly than showing your emotions. That’s going to really serve you well, in the long ru—”
“You know, the thing is,” I say, basically choking at this point. I turn it into a cackle so I don’t freak her out. “I don’t even think Kieth is the right fit for me. I’m just sort of, like, in general upset.”
It was an overall interesting read with a great ending.
Inertia by Veronica Roth– 4/5 stars
Claire is woken up in the middle of the night because her’s former best friend Matthew Hernandez had, apparently, requested her presence at the Last Visitation, a rite that had become common practice in cases like these, when hospital analytics suggested a life would end regardless of surgical intervention.
The Last Visitation grants you the ability to revisit memories you both shared, places you both went to, but nowhere else. And that it’ll happen faster than real life.
I was taken by utter surprise with the premise of this story because it’s so unique, and I really liked the impeccable writing.
The premise kind of reminded me of those special scenes with Dumbledore and Harry in the 6th book, if I’m not mistaken, when they visited Dumbledore’s memories. Those parts were one of my favorites from the series.
“I blinked tears from my eyes, despite myself.
“What are you trying to do, Matt?” I said.
He lifted a shoulder. “I just want to relive the good times with my best friend.”
A true gem of a story:
“Lightning struck the water ahead of us, a long bright line from cloud to horizon, and I smiled a little.
Matt’s hand crept across the center console, reaching for me, and I grabbed it. I felt a jolt as his skin met mine, and I wasn’t sure if I had felt it then, in the memory, or if I was just feeling it now. Wouldn’t I have noticed something like that at the time?
His hand trembled as he cried, and I blinked tears from my eyes, too, but I didn’t let go. I held him, firm, even as our hands got sweaty, even as the milk shake melted in his lap.
After a while, it occurred to me that this was where the moment had ended—Matt had let go of me, and I had driven him back home. But in the visitation, Matt was holding us here, hands clutched together, warm and strong. I didn’t pull away.
He set the milk shake down at his feet and wiped his cheeks with his palm.
“This is your favorite memory?” I said, quietly.
“You knew exactly what to do,” he said, just as quietly. “Everyone else wanted something from me—some kind of reassurance that I was okay, even though I wasn’t okay. Or they wanted to make it easier for me, like losing your father is supposed to be easy.” He shook his head. “But you just wanted me to know you were there.”
Damn, I’m tearing up.
I actually forgot for a while that this was Matt’s Last Visitation, so looking back at their favorite memories together made me tear up even more.
“Some people might leave you,” he said, for once ignoring a joke in favor of something real. “But it doesn’t mean you’re worth leaving. It doesn’t mean that at all.”
I didn’t quite believe him. But I almost did.
“Don’t go,” I whispered.”
I didn’t sign up for this pain.
This story left me with the biggest heartache, and I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that went down. Seriously incredible.
Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron– no rating
I decided to DNF it because the story wasn’t working for me. I didn’t really like that every time the writer addressed the reader I felt like I was being pulled out of the story. And it also didn’t help that Lena felt emotionless, like an extremely lifelike robot.
Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert– 2.5/5 stars
Rashida’s cousin and closest friend – Audrey- is moving over two thousand miles away to live with her girlfriend Gillian.
The family throws Audrey a going away party where Rashida meets Gillian’s brother, Pierre. And, of course, Audrey falls magically in love with him.
I’m sorry, but her crushing on him was a bit too creepy for me, it pretty much ruined the story for me (not that Rashida’s behaviour was saving it).
“You’re a good driver,” he says quietly, and then looks out his window for the remainder of the ride.
Which is just as well, because it takes much too long for me to stop furiously blushing at a compliment so decidedly innocuous.
And I want to know what’s changed since we’ve been in the car. Because five minutes ago I could barely stand to look at him, and now my cheeks are on fire. ”
Seriously, why are you blushing???? I want to know what’s changed, too— maybe a bit much insta-love in the air?
And it just kept going down with no ups towards the end.
Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare– 2.5/5 stars
This tale follows Lulu Darke, only daughter of Ted Darke, the owner of Ted Darke’s Dark Carnival of Mystery, Magic, and That Which Is Better Left Unseen:
“The hall of mirrors that throws back terrifying, distorted reflections. The tattooed man whose tattoos move and crawl on his skin, the merry-go-round that turns back time, the bearded lady who comes at you with a carving knife, and the fortune-teller who gives you only bad news.
You know, your basic dark carnival”
Her father packed up and disappeared this May, with only a note to Lulu saying he owed money all over the country and he had to run.
“Don’t blame yourself, he’d said. Don’t expect to hear from me. And I hadn’t.”
The concept of the story with a dark carnival really intrigued me. So I was excited to see were Cassandra Clare was going to take it.
“You’ve probably been wondering how much of the dark carnival was real and how much was fake. Marks always do. The answer is some, and some. The answer is that it’s as real as you want, and as fake as you hope. And the answer is that everything at the carnival that couldn’t be explained, everything that sparked of real magic, was because of Mephit. Mephit was like a battery, and he made us light up.”
While working the Tunnel of Terror she encounters her uncle Walter and his stepson, Lucas, the boy who’d thrown up on her ten years ago.
“He chuckled. “Lulu and Lucas. Sounds like you were made for each other!”
My cheeks grew warm. Lucas glared. His hair was still dripping. He reminded me of a cup of coffee: wet, hot, and bitter. I tried to decide if it was immoral to lust after your step-cousin. I figured it wasn’t. We weren’t actually related. No shared blood.”
So, I have to ask, what’s up with Cassandra Clare’s characters and their love interests being almost always related in some way??
I mean, don’t get me wrong, she definitely knows how to write swoon-worthy kisses, but I feel weird rooting for her couples because they either were once related or have generally some forbidden love— I just feel wrong.
I don’t quite know how I feel about this one, though the ending was a bit cheesy and not quite as dark as I was expecting.
A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith– 3.5/5 stars
This dynamic tale recounts the growing affection between Annie, a day-camp counselor and a withdrawn, disabled young man.
Jennifer E. Smith always manages to make the pages fly by, and I left this story wanting more.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman– 3/5 stars
“Our goal was to find every single moment of beauty, every tiny perfect thing, that this particular August 4th had to offer. ”
Lev Grossman’s protagonists, Mark and Margaret, are drawn together in a Boston suburb where time stands still.
A surprisingly melancholy and atmospheric ending to the anthology, though the whole “I’m in love with you” did bother me a bit. It felt like Mark had watched one too many rom-coms.
“I’d never known Margaret to go to the hospital. She’d never talked about it. It freaked me out a bit. My insides went cold, and the closer we got, the colder they got. I couldn’t believe what a stupid jealous bastard I’d been. Maybe Margaret was sick—maybe she’d been sick this whole time and just didn’t want to tell me. She didn’t want to burden me with it. Oh my God, maybe she had cancer! I should have stuck with trying to cure it! Maybe that was the whole point of this whole thing—Margaret has some rare disease, but then we work together, and because we have the repeating-days thing we have all the time we need, and finally we come up with a cure for it and save her and she falls in love with me …”
Overall, I really enjoyed these gems! I hope we’ll get to have more anthologies coming up.