Signs, Saints and Sand Dollars

The Summer of Letting Go - Gae Polisner

Let me lie and thieve and screw up until I rot away in hell, but don't just let me be no one, nothing, except that other girl. Because that other girl, the sad-eyed one

staring back from the photograph on my computer, I don't want to be her anymore.


I'm having a hard time rating this because it started off rocky for me with a lot of frowning and raised eyebrow moments followed by a strong middle that ended on a bit of a whimper. It took a great deal of empathic calisthenics on my part (yes, there's such a thing) to get along with the heroine because some parts of her story had the potential to be devastatingly heart wrenching one moment, only to be off-set by questionable actions and hazy rationale in the next turn.

For the last three years, Frankie "Beans" Schnell has been carrying the guilt of her younger brother, Simon's drowning and, by extension, the gradual ruin of her family. A distant, apathetic mother, a father who may or may not be fooling around with their Angelina Joliesque neighbor mixed with the perfect gorgeous best friend with the perfect gorgeous boyfriend she secretly covets… it's going to be an interesting summer. But apparently, not interesting enough, as in one of her stakeouts trying to catch her dad and the neighbor, she meets a young boy Frankie "Sky" Schyler who reminds her of Simon a little too vividly. 

Okay, NOW it's going to be an interesting summer.

Beans and Frankie Sky's friendship played around with paranormal and religious themes but wasn't really the point of interest of the story (for me anyway). Save for Frankie Sky's propensity for lolspeak (I had a bit of trouble not imagining him as a lolcat at times) and some research lapse on pediatric cardiology because septal defects get diagnosed by echocardiography, you can't see the hole by EKG. And last I checked the ventricles are the LOWER chambers of the heart. I found their story sweet and the role each of them played in each other's growth (especially Beans') was truly touching. But my favorite storyline was that of Beans' family. I liked how Polisner depicted each member's hurt over Simon's death, how they acted on it and how it impacts each other. I found it the emotional core of this book, especially Beans' relationship with her father and the dilemma their situation brings.


Maybe that's what I'm secretly hoping for. Because if Dad could make such a huge, horrible mistake and still be a good person, then that would mean, technically I could be too. I could still be worthy of loving, even if I let my brother drown.


There's a raw hurt and desperation in Beans' thoughts as she comes to terms with her father's possible fallibility. Because fully functional parents, in our eyes, always start from that pedestal, that plane that makes you believe they hang the moon and have the answers to everything. Some paths to adulthood starts with seeing them as mortal and imperfect as you are, Beans is on that one. Every scene that is tangentially related to her issues with her parents were brilliant especially her conversation with Mrs. Merrill and some of the ambiguity will probably piss a lot of people off but it is called The Summer of Letting Go for many reasons.

What I could not let go is how Beans figures in the Bradley-Lisette story line. I can't remember where I've seen/read how it doesn't really matter what we think or feel, it is in what we do that we measure the worth of a person and I found myself trying to isolate Beans' thoughts from what she actually does just to make this plot line tolerable. It's hard enough to stand by and listen to Frankie Beans' mental litany of her insecurities against Lisette but to actually suffer through her mooning over her best friend's boyfriend while being (slightly) guilty over it will certainly test your patience and empathy. I would've probably been more forgiving if her longing wasn't introduced as early as the first, freaking scene in the book or if the entire kerfuffle was resolved in a different, less unimaginative manner but as it echoes a message that I'm not entirely comfortable with, I can't make myself see anything else beyond what Beans did. I don't even get the fuss over Bradley, because, seriously? Crab-talk? Crab claws? THAT'S what turns you on?

This had a good story at its core but you'd have to forage through the cheap tricks of juvenile love games, inane crab talk and lolspeak without a lolcat to get to it. And your enjoyment of the story will probably hinge on how much of that you're willing to let go.

(See what I did there? ;p)

ARC provided by Algonquin Books thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Quotes may not appear in the final edi