Thanks to #partner @NetGalley for the digital ARC of Jennifer Weiner's Big Summer in exchange for an honest review. The book is available now.
Somehow, before Big Summer, I had read only one Jennifer Weiner book, but I’ll definitely be adding her backlist books to my wishlist. This novel contains multitudes: a toxic friendship, important messages about body image, a compelling murder mystery, and lavish descriptions of wealth and privilege.
Daphne Berg’s long-time friendship (since sixth grade!) with Drue Cavanaugh ended on the night her career as an influencer began. Drue had set up Daphne with a guy who mocked her weight and then compounds the offense by repeating his criticism. At that point, Daphne knows she’s done with Drue . . . but not what’s happening next. When a bystander releases the video of Daphne going off on him, her social media presence explodes. Now, anchored by her blog Big Time, Daphne makes a career out of self-acceptance.
Daphne has worked hard to purge what’s toxic from her life in favor of focusing on her burgeoning career, her real friendships, her wonderful parents, and the adorable kids she babysits. Then, years later, Drue forces herself back into Daphne’s life with a bizarre request for Daphne: the glamorous Drue wants her former friend to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. Daphne resists at first but eventually gives in to the same magnetic pull that kept her under Daphne’s influence before.
From there, we enter spoiler territory, so I’ll proceed carefully. Drue’s upcoming wedding to a reality tv star means more attention for all involved, and her wealth means that there are ample opportunities for Weiner to set extravagant scenes. Daphne’s skepticism and envy compete as she fights to maintain her autonomy from her former friend. And then, there’s a tragedy and a subsequent mystery that spans the remainder of the book.
I just couldn’t put this book down. Daphne is a likable and empathetic protagonist, someone who is strong and confident but is tempted by self-criticism. I loved her story, I was drawn in by the mystery, and I swooned over the romance (yes, there’s a romance!). Because Weiner is such a great storyteller, these disparate parts are all woven into one, compelling narrative. Big Summer really is a perfect summer read.
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.