The Summer of Firsts and Lasts
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Reading Level: Young Adult
Three sisters. One life-changing summer.
Calla loves summer because summer means Duncan. They’ve been best friends for years, but Calla has never worked up the nerve to tell him how she really feels. This summer, the summer before college, is Calla’s last chance.
"An unflinchingly honest look at sisterhood, first love, and how one amazing summer can change everything. I completely lost myself in this book." — Lauren Barnholdt, author of Two-Way Street
Violet isn’t much of a rule breaker in real life. But this isn’t real life, this is summer, and Violet is determined to make the most of it. Besides, a little sneaking out never hurt anyone. And sneaking out with James is 100% worth the risk … even though James is completely off-limits.
Daisy has never been the sister that boys notice, but when sparks fly with Joel at the first bonfire of summer, it seems so easy and right. So why is being his girlfriend so complicated?
Back when Pure was finally sent off to the printer, my editor and I brainstormed some ideas for new projects. (Well, she sent me an email of ideas and I did some decoupage and thought about them.) One of her suggestions (actually two of them, combined together) turned into After the Kiss. Her other suggestion — the one I sat on and kept quiet for awhile — was to write something about sisters.
I’m the oldest of three sisters, you see; she thought I might have something to say about that.
"It doesn't need to be summer to feel the excitement and freedom that the season and this book radiates." — Rather Be Reading
And I agreed that a sister YA book would be great to do. Because being part of a sister triangle is really interesting. And weird. And stupendous. And … hard sometimes. I wanted to explore the archetypes of eldest, middle, and youngest sister, and the connections between them. I wanted to show the different relationships between eldest-middle, middle-youngest, eldest-youngest and etc. To do this well though, I decided the book had to be narrated by all three girls.
But what sort of environment would all three girls be in at the same time? I wasn’t sure. Home, certainly, but they’d each have their own things going on at school, right? They might not even be in the same school. Which is when I thought: summer camp! Forced togetherness! Of course!
After that I got to pile up all of my best camp fantasies, plus research on contemporary camp practices, interviews with former camp counselors, inspiration from movies like “Wet Hot American Summer,” and “Little Darlings,” and a bunch of other novel-writing tricks and treats, and the result was The Summer of Firsts and Lasts!
One tricky thing about writing a book about three sisters when you are, in fact, one of three sisters however, is making sure that your other two sisters — along with the rest of the world — understand that you are NOT WRITING A BOOK ABOUT THEM. When you have two awesome sisters like I do though, it’s really not that hard. In fact, mostly you get to sit on your porch and tell them the whole story of your novel in one sitting (while eating ice cream). For everyone else, I can say that, yes, some of the dynamics between the Winthrop girls are similar to ours, but it’s my guess that those are more universal ones. Those of you with same-sex siblings (or even just siblings) may see yourselves in the book!
Mainly, I hope that you have fun with this summer romp. I certainly had fun writing it, and will look forward to your thoughts!
Here are some questions about The Summer of Firsts and Lasts to get a conversation going:
- Which of the Winthrop sisters could you relate to the most? The least? Why?
- For those of you who have been to sleepaway camp, how did Camp Callanwolde compare? For those of you who have never been, would you want to go to a camp like this one?
- If you ever could go to Camp Callanwolde, what concentration would you pick? What would be your favorite of the recreational activities in the afternoons and at night?
- All three of the Winthrop sisters have a romantic relationship during the course of The Summer of Firsts and Lasts. Which one did you like best? Which one felt the most familiar to you?
- All three of the Winthrop sisters also go through a lot of firsts during this book. Which ones do you think would be the easiest for you? The hardest?
- Violet’s best camp friend, Brynn, gets into a lot of trouble at camp. What did you think about Brynn and her behavior? About Violet and her relationship with Brynn?
- Over the course of the book, Daisy has to deal with her cabin’s resident mean girl, Montgomery. What do you think about how Daisy handles the situation? What might you have done differently?
- For the first time, Calla is working at camp instead of being a camper. What parts of her “new life” do you hope to experience yourself? What parts might you hope to avoid?
- How does Violet act differently when she is with Daisy, versus when she is with Calla? How is Daisy different when she is with each of her older sisters? And Calla, when with Violet or Daisy? How is this different from the way they are, together as a threesome?
- Look at the cover of the book. Which scoop of ice cream do you think represents each sister?
"Watching Daisy learn to stand up for herself in the face of bullying is perhaps the most moving part of this well-told story that celebrates the powerful love between sisters." — Publishers Weekly