The Summer of Broken Rules – K.L. Walther

The Summer of Broken Rules, by K.L. Walther, Sourcebooks, 2021. 9781728210292

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Paperback

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  Still reeling from the death 18 months ago of her older sister, Claire, Meredith and her parents head to Martha’s Vineyard for a combination family reunion and wedding.  The Paquo compound was Claire’s favorite place in the world and the clan’s annual tradition of a massive Assassin game, her passion. The recently dumped Meredith arrives to find boatloads of relatives, including cousins with hurt feelings (she hasn’t been in touch during her year of mourning), and affectionate, appealing Wit, the groom’s stepbrother. Wedged into a week of pre-wedding activities and Super-Soaker scheming, Meredith and Wit discover they’re made for each other. Lots of wish fulfillment here and those who love the Vineyard or dream of a visit will enjoy the tour of favorite beaches, stores and restaurants, including heavy product-placement-style descriptions of the Morning Glory farmstand. I appreciated Walther’s attempts to provide a diverse cast of characters. Meredith, her family and Wit are White, although cousin Luli is “adopted from Central America.” The groom’s family is described as Creole, with bronze skin. Although all characters are seemingly cisgender, one cousin and a set of aunts are identified as queer.

Anything you didn’t like about it? This is a very breezy book, with minimal exploration of the characters’ motivations or histories. The narrative quickly began to feel like a series of Instagram posts for the MV Chamber of Commerce. Although we do get to eavesdrop on Meredith’s inner life, there’s not much there, beyond missing her sister. The combination of Assassins and a destination wedding seemed like a Survivor episode to me, although possibly young readers might have a different reaction. Meredith and Wit’s sudden, profound and apparently permanent swoon felt off for YA (her parents don’t even object when she spends every night with him).

To whom would you recommend this book?  Teen readers looking for a summer romance. Fans of Sarah Dessen might enjoy this. FYI: There are some gauzy sex scenes, so probably high school rather than middle school readers. 

Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction, romance if you genre-fy

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: July 17, 2021

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