Thursday, May 15, 2014

YA ARC Review: The Summer Invitation by Charlotte Silver

The Summer Invitation
Author: Charlotte Silver
Publication: Roaring Brook Press (May 20, 2014)

Description: When Franny and her older sister, Valentine, are summoned by their aunt Theodora from foggy San Francisco to sunny New York City for one summer, they are taken to timeless locales like Bemelmans Bar and the Sherry-Netherland and instructed on how to be a lady by their chaperone, Clover, Aunt Theodora’s protégé. Franny is thrilled by all of the sophisticated outings, but Valentine has more pressing concerns. Boys! As they wander around New York City going lingerie shopping and learning about the simple elegance of a cucumber sandwich, they unearth secrets about Aunt Theo’s romantic past and even have a few romantic adventures of their own, in Charlotte Silver's The Summer Invitation.

My Thoughts: I have very mixed feelings about this story. It felt very nostalgic and yet it was a contemporary story. It was narrated by Franny Lord, age fourteen. Franny seemed both young for fourteen and much more mature, literate, and thoughtful than fourteen. She was the observer more than the participant in the summer that she and her sister had when they were invited to visit New York City and stay in their Aunt Theo's apartment with Clover for their chaperone.

Franny and her seventeen-year-old sister Valentine were both eager for adventures. Valentine was especially eager for romance. They have never met their Aunt Theo who was actually a friend of their mother's from her Paris days and not a relative at all. Aunt Theo is a figure of mystery throughout the story. We hear her opinions as expressed by Clover and by the friends of hers that we meet.

Largely, nothing really happens in this story. We do get lots of trips to nostalgic New York City places like the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, Bemelmans Bar, and the Frick Museum. We visit a few vintage clothing stores and even shop for lingerie. And in all those venues, we get Aunt Theo's opinions on the proper clothing and attitudes of young ladies.

One of the many problems I had with the story was the freedom that both Franny and Valentine had. Who really turns two young girls loose in New York City to explore and have adventures? In one part, Franny goes to a bar to meet one of Aunt Theo's old friends, or possibly lovers, - a complete stranger - by herself and with her chaperone's blessing. And 17-year-old Valentine's summer romance is with a 21-year-old Juilliard student. One at least one occasion, Valentine stays out all night with this young man and returns with grass stains on her dress. Really?

While Franny's observations were interesting, I'm not sure who the proper audience for this book would be. By length, it seems middle grade but the lack of action and the introspective viewpoint of the narrator doesn't seem middle grade or something that would attract middle graders. I think that this might be better for older readers who can understand Franny's viewpoint and observations.

Favorite Quote:
"A program," exclaimed Val. "A program! Who wants that? That's like being in school. We're going to have adventures. In New York City. We're going to Live!"

I hoped so. Oh, how I hoped so! When you're fourteen or even seventeen, it seems life you're just waiting for Life with a Capital L to happen.
I got this ARC from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

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