When I first saw Lindsey Roth Culli’s young adult novel, Say Yes Summer, I figured it was going to be something akin to Shonda Rhimes’ memoir, The Year of Yes, which encourages you to say “yes” to opportunity when it comes knocking. I could tell that Say Yes Summer would be predictable, but in a good way—sometimes you just want to read a feel-good, summer-y novel. And, I’m happy to report that Say Yes Summer is a book you should say “yes” to. It’s an excellent summer read that takes you back to high school without actually having to go back to high school. —Camia Rhodes

Say Yes Summer centers around Rachel Walls, a girl who’s spent her entire life striving to achieve three goals: getting straight A’s, getting into the college of her dream, and getting an academic scholarship. In pursuit of these goals, she’s spent her whole high school existence saying “no” to everything: no dances, no parties, no boys, no anything fun. We meet Rachel on the night of her graduation and follow along as she celebrates this achievement by spending the summer before college, saying “yes” to everything that comes her way…including unexpected romance. 

Among the things I liked in Say Yes Summer, was that Rachel’s love interests weren’t the stereotypical, one-dimensional YA hot jock and the underappreciated best friend. Clayton, Rachel’s crush, is more than just the “Soccer Dude;” he’s passionate about the environment and wants to study it in college. Her childhood friend, Miles, isn’t just the slacker she thinks he is, he actually wants to do something important with his hacker skills. 

I know they say that when you’re booksmart, you’re really dumb about a lot of other things that matter. But our leading lady Rachel takes things to a whole new level.

It also wasn’t the usual kind of contemporary YA romance either, where the girl pines for the hot guy, then finds out he has a girlfriend, yet—somehow!—they kiss anyway, only for it to turn out that he’s a jerk, and she ends up dating her guy friend instead. Of course, all these things happen, but Clayton isn’t a jerk and Miles isn’t playing the typical best-friend-turned-lover role. Rachel gets to know her crush and childhood friend a little bit better and learns that there’s more to people than what she learns from Instagram and Snapchat. 

I know they say that when you’re booksmart, you’re really dumb about a lot of other things that matter. But our leading lady Rachel takes things to a whole new level. Unfortunately, it was a level that I didn’t like. While I could relate to her crushing on a boy and watching him from her bedroom window, it bugged me that she perceived things about him without getting the facts straight. She seemed to believe everything she saw on other people’s Instagram and Snapchats, never bothering to wonder anything different.

It’s her lack of knowledge of both boys, but especially Miles, that makes me dislike Rachel’s character in the beginning. It comes across as a naïveté about people that I just can’t stand. However, as the story progresses, we see that Rachel’s desire to be perfect for her mother and not follow in her footsteps is the reason why she has been isolating herself from the world around her. And though it doesn’t fully excuse her lack of knowledge of Miles, it’s understandable to get tunnel-visioned when you have a singular focus you think you’re supposed to have. 

The only thing I would say I truly didn’t like was the plot skipping. Though the plot is good and it doesn’t have any holes, there are times where it feels like the story is in one spot then jumps to another point in the plot. There wasn’t a bridge in between the two plot points. But, like I said, nothing is missing from the story despite this. Although Say Yes Summer has plenty of drama (as most YA novels possess), there’s also learning, acceptance, and reconnection that’s sure to warm the heart. More importantly, it’s a feel-good read that makes you think but in a way that’s still light and fun. It reminds us to be open to opportunity and not assume things are what you see on social media. It’s a YA novel that takes a story as old as time and does a deep dive, uncovering the truth that there’s more to people than meets the eye.

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