Wilamena (Wil) Carlisle is an Aquarius. She is obsessed with the zodiac and considers her Astrological chart to be sacred. She once made a promise to her mother (before her untimely death) that she would abide the will of her chart. Eight years later, she is determined to keep that promise. One day, she climbs to the top of the water tower in Carlisle to ponder her dismal romantic fate. According to her chart she has twenty-two days left to find her perfect romantic match or she must remain single for the next decade to avoid utter catastrophes. Wil has never been in love and finds this task to be impossible. Thinking she is planning to commit suicide, two men spy Wil and “save” her from herself. One of them is Grant Walker, whom Wil immediately finds herself attracted to. But Grant is not for her; the stars tell Wil that she must be with a Sagittarius and avoid all Pisces if she wants to be happy. Guess which star sign Grant was born under?
Wil next meets Seth, charming and fond of grand gestures. Seth immediately sweeps Wil off of her feet (literally and figuratively). While succumbing to his charms, Wil cannot stanch her intense attraction to Grant. It turns out that Seth is a Sagittarius and that Grant, who continues to turn Wil’s head, is Seth’s older brother. Within one family line, she has both her perfect cosmological match and disaster.
What’s a girl to do?
Summer of Supernovas pulled me in from the beginning. I felt an immediate kinship with Wil and want her to be my best friend. She’s instantly likable and winsome and fleshed out, and I was in love with her by the end of page one. She is carried by an equally charming cast of supporting characters in this story – Her grandmother, her best friend, Irina, Seth and Grant, Grant’s best friend, Manny…there was a lot of love in this book all around. I found myself bonding with everyone from page to page, gleeful to see people resurface as the plot progressed.
I feel honour bound to mention that the last hundred pages of the book posed some pacing problems for me. There is a specific interaction with Wil’s grandmother that felt a little rushed, particularly since it launches into a major plot point for the rest of the book. In truth, I read an advanced copy and that could account for some of the novel’s roughness. These scenes feels…squashed, if that makes sense, instead of frenetic, which, I believe, was the intent. That said, I really am nitpicking, because I enjoyed the book on so many levels. Everything else works, and everything else works really beautifully.
There’s such a fragile innocence to this story, a level of hope and respect and blind faith. Wil is obsessed by upholding a promise to her mother, a promise from childhood that she, in no way, is obliged to keep. This impacts how she views life and who she devotes herself to, dictates her interests and her passions, but it also allows for some of the best parts of the book. We see Wil’s relationships with others through her clueless eyes more learned, more wise, and far more experienced, and yet she does not ever read as annoying or shallow or dim-witted. Instead Woods has crafted a character full of willful naiveté, a character who makes bad choices that the audience will instantly connect with. We have all been there. We now know how to do things right. Wil does everything wrong in a way that is so right and you can’t help but love her for that. She conjures up images of Molly Ringwald teen comedy roles and Audrey Hepburn charisma and she does it with finesse every step of the way.
I loved the romantic dynamic in this book. That part is pitch perfect. There’s a beautiful tension that builds up through the story, an incandescence of magic and light that illuminates the three principles gorgeously. There’s a perfect moment where I myself felt really torn in the story, where I knew where I wanted it to go but was not sure that I really wanted it to get there for fear of what it might change. There’s an ideal blend of chemistry, chaos, and coveting that makes up the holy triumvirate for a romantic coming-of-age YA novel and Woods hit every note in spades. I really loved what she did with this character in this situation and I really loved how she got there.
Fun, charming, so sweet and so heart-felt, Summer of Supernovas is the stuff of teen dreams and epic summer adventures. If you like John Hughes movies and anything by Stephanie Perkins, than this is a must-read for you.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
*Summer of Supernovas releases May 10, 2016 from Crown. Thanks to the fine folks at Random House/Crown for the advanced copy.
– Follow the Reader –