Twenty-four-year-old Summer Johnson knows two things. The first is that due to a quickly worsening medical condition, she faces a risky surgery in three months’ time that may or may not end in her death. The second is that she would like to fall in love before then.
As spring sinks into her namesake season on the Florida coastline, Summer plays the odds and downloads a new dating app – and after one intriguing message from a beautiful surfer named Cooper Nichols, it becomes clear that the story of what may be her last few months under the sun is about to be completely revised. All she has to do now is write something worth reading.
Tender, honest, devastating and triumphant, The Summer Remains explores a very human battle being waged in a very digital age: the search for a love that will outlast this temporary borrowing of bones. In an era when many feel compelled to share and re-share anything about everything, prepare to feel a love so special, you want to hug it close and make it yours forever.
334 pages; New Adult/Romance; 2015
Other than the fact that this was written by Seth King, I wasn’t sucked into this story because of the romance but because of the medical condition it focused on. It was Jodi Picoult and Osteogenesis Impefecta Type III all over again. I couldn’t wait to peek into another way of life that real people out there somewhere in the world experience.
I had never heard of Esophageal Intresia before. It’s a congenital birth defect that causes the esophagus to end in a bling-ended pouch rather than connecting normally to the stomach (thank you, Wikipedia).
Because of this, a twelve-hour-old Summer underwent surgery as doctors hoped to fix and join the two pieces. That didn’t work and neither did the next eighty attempts.
One of those attempts included extracting a piece of Summer’s intestine to somehow make a throat out of. Post-surgery, a tube was inserted up Summer’s nose and run down her throat to keep the passage from closing again. After she pulled on it one too many times, a nurse mistakenly decided to stitch it to the skin beside her nostril, irritating Summer to the point of ripping it from her face, leaving an angry red scar in its wake.
An eighty-first surgery was scheduled to create a throat passage to widen the esophagus to aid in swallowing and eating but it was not a cure. To compensate, a little plastic feeding tube protrudes from Summer’s abdomen and Instamilk is inserted through a syringe four times a day.
At twenty-four-years-old, Summer’s condition is deemed terminal and presented to her is one final “Hail Mary” scheduled in three months’ time – a surgery centering on the Porter-Collins procedure, one that no one has ever survived. All Summer needs to do until then is to assure that her health doesn’t “take another nosedive”, and she’ll be given the all-clear for surgery.
When her mother, doctors, and a representative from Last Great Hope come on too strong, Summer underlines her need for normality, not to be treated like A Broken Person, no sympathy. She hopes to spend her namesake season by the beach …and hopefully, falling in love.
Summer downloads a dating app called Spark and after quickly blocking a few jerks and creeps, meets seemingly normal, down-to-earth Cooper Nichols.
Unperturbed by the facial scar and the feeding tube, Cooper elbows his way into Summer’s heart. He also won me over when he said,
And just like that, I knew that there was a deeper reason for why this man can love as much as he does. I knew that he would have his own past to overcome, his own crosses to bear, his own version of a facial scar and a feeding tube. And I knew that these two would be good for one another and to one another.
What begins as a healthy, fruitful friendship comes a young love that few are fortunate to know. With a strong sense of companionship as its foundation and a deep appreciation for the other’s life and person, reading of Cooper and Summer was simultaneously a breath of fresh air and getting all the air knocked out of your lungs in one fell swoop.
Because all throughout those summer days and nights, throughout all the times you want to shove Summer into Cooper’s waiting arms, is that niggling reminder that Fall is drawing near. Summer-The-Season will come to an end but will Summer-The-Person live to see another?
One of my favourite young-love leading men is Landon Carter from “A Walk To Remember”. Cooper is akin to Landon when it comes to being handed what could possibly be the greatest love he’ll know while he is still so young …and that this great love’s life as well as their story could be cut way too short. It’s a difficult pill to swallow. From his first page to the last, he was nothing less than a sweetheart. He was Summer’s shoulder to cry on, her greatest supporter, her normal, her extraordinary. He was just what she needed and just what she was looking for.
Summer is a heroine to root for, a survivor to applaud, and I often think of what her life beyond the last page would have looked like. She has a large personality and an even larger heart. The support group she hosted and the purpose it served was an amazing addition to the story and to her character. I love the fight in her. One o
One of the things I absolutely loved about TSR is that in a modern world where social media is (sadly) the main outlet for the little details of daily life and definitely for the huge life-changing events, here are two young people who are perfectly content with being the only ones to know the entirety of their story.
The ending devastated me in the worst and the best way and it broke my heart to discover that some circumstances of this novel were very personal to the author. My heart goes out to his family and all the Summers this world has known.
I hope you give this one a chance and that you carry it with you wherever you go.
Because I am.
1. Summertime – Beyoncé ft. P Diddy
2. It’s Gonna Be Love – Mandy Moore
3. I Could Fall In Love – Selena
4. Cry – Mandy Moore
5. Summer – Calvin Harris
6. The Trouble With Love Is – Kelly Clarkson
7. I Was Made For Loving You – Tori Kelly ft. Ed Sheeran
8. Slow Down Time – Us The Duo
9. Skyscraper – Demi Lovato
1o. This Is My Now – Jordin Sparks
11. Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day
12. Once In A Blue Moon – Sydney Forest
13. Dreaming of You – Selena
14. Best I Can – Chris Perez
“Sometimes you just gotta jump, and then make your parachute on the way down.”
“My life could be kinda sucky sometimes, and there was nothing that comforted me more than sinking into a good book and immersing myself in a world I knew nothing of and feeling things I would never otherwise feel. If eyes were windows into the soul, books were rabbit holes into the imagination.”
“You’re not vulnerable, not really. The way you look at people, the shine in your eyes …there’s a strength under there, whether you know it or not.”
“In every neighbourhood there was a miserable old cat lady who closed her curtains and hated the world and threw stuff at the kids who crossed her driveway, right? You didn’t have to wonder whether she was going to hell, because she was already in hell. Her life was miserable, whether she’d admit it or not. She’d create her own hell for herself, and she lived in it every day. But, like, that other lady two streets over who volunteered her time and checked on local sick children and, like, de-wormed African orphans on her work vacations and stuff? She was happy and free. She’d created heaven already. Who was to say that wouldn’t last forever? Who could say that disappeared as soon as she done borrowing the set of bones she’d been leased? So anyway, I just try to create a good life for myself and the ones I love and forget about the rest. That’s what I try to do.”
“I’m just like everyone else. I have no idea where I’m going, but something tells me I’d be fine ending up wherever, as long as you were with me.”
“A mask can make a beautiful face invisible, and beauty can make a scar invisible. It’s all just a bunch of beautiful bullshit if you ask me.”
“And in the end, I suppose the only way to find happiness is to risk total destruction.”
“I wanted to lean out of the window and shout, What’s wrong with you freaks?! Why isn’t your world stopping? Why aren’t you heartbroken? Why aren’t you lying on the floor, broken and sobbing, because a totally fictional character in a totally made-up story is dead? I was furious that the world wasn’t broken by a story it had never read, and I wanted to gouge out my eyeballs so I could read it all over again with brand new eyes – that was the mark of a good fucking book.”
“It’s like you painted a portrait with words instead of paint.”
“There comes a time in every relationship when you look over at the other person and suddenly realize: this could break me. You look into their eyes and feel the ancient lonely bones within yourself start to rearrange and shift into something new and golden and thrilling and good, and you know that this person has sunken into you, perhaps irrevocably, and that their happiness is now intertwined with your happiness, probably forever. And then you realize there will be no turning back from this, whatever “this” is, because to send them off into the night now would wreck you. And tonight, sitting in the car in front of my house, I felt myself reach that moment – and it scared the living shit out of me.”
“I loved every second I spent drowning in that girl, let me tell you.”
“Miracles are everywhere. All you have to do is stay positive enough to notice them.”
“This wasn’t his battle to fight, and that was fine. Only now was I starting to think that maybe, just maybe, he wanted to fight it with me.”
“So you’re facing some problems. So what? I’ve found someone I want. You’re it. That cake you made for my mom, the way you acted at that support meeting, the way you always know the right thing to say to pull me out of myself, the general way you carry yourself through this fucked-up world …I’ve found what I want, so who cares about what comes next? Who cares about the odds? Statistically speaking, it’s perfectly possible that you would walk down the sidewalk tomorrow and get run over by an ice cream truck – does that mean I’m gonna stop loving you all of a sudden? Does that man I need to step away? No. I need you too, you know. And I know you need me, no matter what you tell yourself. So let yourself be happy, Summer. Stop doing this. Let love destroy you – God knows life is going to, anyway.”
“The dog situation affected me, too. When we took her in for cremation this morning, the vet told me not to cry, because although she was only around for part of my life, I was her whole life. So, look, Summer. I know this may not be the end of the road for you. You can’t hide that from me anymore. But I’d like to be here for the rest of your whole life, however long that may be, and it would be an honour to only have you around for part of mine.”
“You’re worth the risk, and I’m all yours. Be careful with me.”
“Just like Saviour said in Strange Fiction, enough with the fucking sunshine and rainbows and happy endings. I want what you’re hiding from me. I know there’s more. Give it to me. Give it all to me. I want your ugly, your broken, your twisted; I want the monsters that pick away at your soul while you lie awake at night thinking of us. Let’s burn each other to the ground in all the best ways, until there’s nothing left but you and me and love and the future.”
“Thank you for loving me on my way down.”
“As her breathing slowed and she started taking her last gasps of air, my grandpa leaned in and whispered, ‘I was so lucky to have you.’ Even after all that, even after years of her having Alzheimer’s and staring up at the ceiling and not knowing how to eat or talk or fucking breathe sometimes, he was still grateful.”
“My father was a failure as a parent, something I had accepted with sadness long ago and quietly forgiven him for. Still, at the time I gleefully told myself that I’d filled in the Dad-shaped hole in my heart with dirt forever, and that whenever he’d surely come bak to my porch begging for his little girl back one day, I’d sneer at him and slam the door in his face. But the saddest thing was that he never came back. He’d never even cared about my preemptive rejection, and he’d probably preferred having me out of his hair so he could press restart on his life with his new wife, anyway. But I was okay. I’d found my heroes in books. And a dating app.”
“I love you, and you are feeling that love right now. You found a dead boy and made his heart beat again. You are the only thing in the world that makes me feel this alive. You squeeze so much life into every second I have with you, and I don’t care how fucking cheesy or stupid or Hallmark that sounds – I’m thankful. A little angry at the situation, yes, but thankful underneath that. So thankful. Thank God for you, Summer.”
“And so it goes, to be a young soul trapped inside a set of broken bones. What a beautiful curse, to be young and beautiful and doomed. And so it goes, that love will keep a soul alive. A person who was loved and left love behind cannot die so long as they are kept inside the beating heart of a human – or better yet, five.”
“There were only a few moments in a human’s life that came along and changed everything, little fireworks that popped in your skies and shifted the winds in your sails and put you on a new course and pushed you to new heights and horizons you’d never even dreamed of before. Mine was at six in the evening, the twenty-fifth of March. Humid breeze, golden sunset. The moment I’d met Summer.”