The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner Review: Bittersweet Pain

August 21, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner Review: Bittersweet PainThe Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on March 25, 2014
Source: Borrowed
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary
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Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope and love can appear in the most unexpected places.

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca's little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca is the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can't have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it's possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she'd never dare to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky.

“Mom isn’t herself anymore, and hasn’t been one bit since Simon died. Still she’s my mother, and she needs him. She can’t take more destruction. She can’t take one more person she loves being swept out to sea.”

Bittersweet pain. Those are the only two books that can simply describe my thoughts of this book. It was bitter and sweet at times, but the most precious thing was that it was painful to read. Not the negative pain, but the depression pain. I think that the author tried to make everything seem light and fluffy, but I saw it as heartbreaking and dark.

Imagine you find someone who has an exact personality as someone you know very well. They like the same things as them, and are like a realistic copy. This is what Francesca had to go through one summer. Yes, this may be a chick-lit contemporary, but it does have its dark spots that will leave you thinking after finishing this book.

Francesca still feels like it’s her fault. One summer day a few months ago, Frankie and her family went to the beach, and came back without one person–her brother. He drowned in the horrifying waves and this happened while Frankie was supposed to be watching him while her parents slept. Lots of drama is going on now too–her mother is strictly depressed and acting strange, her father is supposedly cheating on her mother with their neighbour, and her best friend Lisette is adding some space between their friendship. Then, Frankie meets Frankie Sky, a little boy who strangely has such a resemblance in personality to Simon. Could this be of a reincarnation of Simon? At the same time when solving this eerie mystery, Frankie learns to fall in love with someone who truly understands her and her being, and she’ll find herself and who she is.

I never thoroughly read the summary of this book, so I didn’t expect some mystery of reincarnation in a contemporary read to come up. For once, a chick-lit author has added something unique and rare to a novel of theirs. Through this mystery, Frankie, the protagonist ends up falling in love with a guy who is strictly off limits, but he’s someone who surprisingly understands her and what she’s trying to find. I loved the premise and it hasn’t been done before.

The book began off missing something. The beginning was weak and slow. It took about half of the book to get to the point, and then it lost its magic that it had going on. Frankie Sky took up a lot of the book, and I guess you could say that I was gushing to find out what would happen next. The second half of the book was okay, but I’d overall say that I’ve read better stories that were similar–without the reincarnation part that kept me going. The plot was thin in the beginning, but as we kept going, the story eventually unfolded into something memorable.

Francesca, as a character, was weak. She was broken; very, after her brother’s death because she felt like she was to blame. I understand that. Her story is tough to tell. Many readers could probably relate to her and believe her story, but I felt like I wasn’t one of them. She was too insecure and shy for this type of mystery and premise. For a book like this, we need someone independent and confident–Frankie was the opposite, but she tried her best to get her brother’s story to live on with Frankie Sky. In between, the side characters were great and added something more believable to the story.

I’d blame this story to be strong and desiring because of the romance. Francesca and.. (won’t say the name) were perfect for each other, and the male really helped her deal with everything. Thanks to the romance, Frankie really survived everything because someone was there for her.




This book was definitely memorable because of its premise and long-living story afterward. The plot may have been thin in the beginning, but it got to the point eventually and came out to be enjoyable. You may have to cut some slack for Francesca, especially since of the accident that changed her life forever and all of the stress and events that came afterwards. But the romance really saved her. I enjoyed this a lot, and I recommend it if you loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Rating3.5 out of 5


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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22 responses to “The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner Review: Bittersweet Pain

  1. The premise indeed is interesting, but it kinda sucks the over has to be like that 🙁 It's really unappealing to me, and I would have passed it over if I ever saw it in a bookstore (it's not attention-grabbing). But in any case, I look forward to the dark themes in this book. The darker aspects are usually the ones that reel me into a story!
    Faye @ The Social Po recently posted…Potato Prints #4: Flipped, CrescendoMy Profile

    • I agree, Faye! I got this from the library, so it really surpassed the prettiness of standards in covers compared to others, haha. It doesn't suit the book at all and is so cheesy! *hurls*

  2. Yay! This seems like a very depressing book, Michelle! And if you know me, I sometimes steer clear of them because I am such a softie. Even the slightest provocation will send me crying my heart out. Good thing that you were still able to enjoy this even if the beginning moved like a turtle and the plot lacked tension somehow.

    As for Francesca, I don't think I would mind her weakness but if she's still moping about it until the end of the book, I really think that I'm going to get annoyed. I do want some development and I want to see characters surviving ordeals with grace.

    Lovely review, Michelle!
    Charlotte @ Thoughts recently posted…Am I Doing This Wrong?My Profile

    • I am a die-hard lover of depressing reads, but I always end up bawling! It's such an enjoyment and pleasure! xD I usually find plots like those to really lower the rating, but I kept staying for this one!

      She became a stronger character, actually! It wasn't a huge improvement, but it settled well for me. Thank you so much, and I have a feeling that you will enjoy this one! 😀

    • I was so surprised to see what it was actually about! xD Oh gosh, after If I Stay, I was a wreck, but I needed Where She Went so badly afterwards! Go for this a little later, Jessica! It's worth it, trust me. 😉 Thank you so much!

  3. Heartbreaking and sad is what I love best in books. I really love to cry my heard out while holding a book, cause yes I'm crazy like that. Anyhow this one sounds like I'd do just that and I love how this one made you feel everything. I'm glad you enjoyed it 🙂 Great review 🙂
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  4. That cover makes the book sound like a fluffy summer read and it clearly isn't. I feel very much deceived!

    I get sad with books where there are sibling deaths. Anything that involves family death is always so hard to read. I feel like I need to emotionally prepare myself before I go into one. I think this would be rougher for me, especially because the little boy gets reincarnated.

    I actually think I wouldn't have much of an issue with Fransesca, especially given her situation, but it's always nice to know how the character is before you go into the book.

    Lovely review, Michelle.
    Nick @ Nick's B recently posted…Review : Can’t Look Away by Donna CoonerMy Profile

    • LOL, that's what I expected it to be, Nick! Same! I cringe on the thought of those kind of books, but I always end up reading them anyway… x) Yeah, you might want to get your heart settled for this—but not tissues necessarily because the event doesn't really happen happen during the story. Yes! So you can brace yourself haha. Thanks! <3

  5. This sounds like an original book, I haven't read much books that dealt with reincarnation before. Even in fantasy books it doesn't come up that often. This sounds like a sad book, I always find books that deal with death difficult to read. I can't deal with the subject very well, although I also think it's great when authors can write a good book while dealing with such a difficult subject.
    Lola recently posted…About Me: How do you find new blogs to follow?My Profile

    • I agree! The only other reincarnation book I can now recall of (without having to search it up) is Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, which was done beautifully. Death really touches my heart and I find it hurting but it also builds up nice character-to-character relationships. And yes, all of the subjects combined nicely here!

  6. I LOVED SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS. But I never thought it was sad in the way this book sounds it was .-.

    I think I may have problems with Francesca though.. I am not always good with cutting slack but I think I might just take it on to meet this mysterious male and Frankie Sky.

    I am glad you enjoyed this, Michelle!!! 🙂

    Lovely review!
    Rashika recently posted…ARC Review: The Jewel by Amy EwingMy Profile

    • SAME HERE! OMG, really? I cried like a baby! You seem like one of the tough ones. 😀 I felt like this was similar to it because of the premise and friendship it had going on—but nothing can beat that classic chick-lit by Brashares, right? I don't normally like to cut slack either, but if you met Francesca in this story, you'd feel like you have to feel bad for her because of her situation. Thank you, Rashika! 😀
      Michelle @ Happy Ind recently posted…The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner Review: Bittersweet PainMy Profile

  7. That cover is a bit of a shocker isn't it, but the premise sounds pretty good. I love a emotional contemporary from time to time. But without the romance aspect, this one sounds like it might have fallen into the dud category. I'm actually interested to see whether or not there IS any truth to the reincarnation, or just wishful thinking to ease her guilty conscious. Does it explore whether or not it's a possibility, or it's just slotted in as more of a talking point to give Frankie's character a bit more dimension. This one has me intrigued though.

    Brilliant review Michelle <3 Jeann really got lucky when she found you as a coblogger 🙂

    I'll start plotting to steal you away soon.

    *twiddles fake mustache* Mwahhaha
    Kelly recently posted…The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel by Neil GaimanMy Profile

    • She's mine, all mine Kelly! Get your own! Lol

      Great review Michelle, it sounds like you got a lot more than you bargained for with this book, especially the deep emotional elements. Lovely review!

    • LOL yeah… It's really cheesy. But I was in the mood for a summer read, so I decided to go with this one. ;') Emotional contemporaries rock! I just wish that there were more that have unique premises, like this one! Yes, thank goodness for that romance! *pounds fists into air* Haha, you'd have to see that for yourself by reading this or else the whole book'd be spoiled! Go for it, Kelly!

      Thank you so much, but I'm taken. xD I'm so happy that Jeann has chosen me! *feels the love* I want your fake moustache, though! <3