Five Summers by Una LaMarche | Book Review

Five Summers by Una LaMarche takes on one of my most desired and most favorite settings and that is summer camp. It astounds me, the dearth of young adult books about going to camp. I know that not everyone is fortunate to go to camp, but for me, some of my best memories from being a kid come from going to camp. Granted, it was sleepaway camp for only one week and church camp, but I had so much fun and would always be in this funk after coming back from camp because I missed my camp friends and the magical world of camp. Straight out, Five Summers does a pretty okay job at capturing the magic of camp, if not with winning me over with the characters.

The book opens with Emma driving back to camp eagerly anticipating her reunion with fellow campers Skylar, Jo, and Maddie, her best friends from four summers in a row at Camp Nedoba in New Hampshire. This is Emma’s first time seeing the girls in three years. So much has changed, will they be able to get right back into the friendship saddle? Five Summers is told through various third person point of view chapters. The story alternates between a third person focus on Emma, Skylar, Jo and Maddie. The story also alternates in timeline between present day at the camp reunion weekend and the past — the four summers that the girls spent at camp together.

Emma is a studying machine. All she does is work on school stuff and read books. She is driven and her main goal is to get into her reach college of Brown. She’s also a virgin, which we learn over and over again. Oh and Emma has had a crush on Adam Loring, a fellow flirty camper, for several years. Yet, during her last summer ever at camp, she did not kiss him because she was not ready. Will she rekindle the flame at the reunion? You will have to read to find out. Also, Emma was my favorite character, I think.

Maddie has been weaving a tangled web of lies. She’s so far gone that she feels like she can’t tell her friends the truth. I am not going to lie, while reading the book I was confusing the character with the secret on the back jacket cover. I also thought the secret was that she was a lesbian, but alas, no. Nothing so interesting or diverse as all that. Well, actually, no that’s false. I liked Maddie’s secret, in that it’s a type of YA character I do not often see, given the privileged set of characters that typically grace the pages that I read. Maddie was my second favorite character.

Skylar was the absolute worst. Okay, she has really low self esteem because her art gallery owner dad is really terrible about her art. So, she turns to guys for validation. She also turns to one guy that she should be staying away from. She’s a totally bad friend is what I am saying. Granted, it takes two to tango and I think the one guy is a total douche, but still blame lies all around. I don’t like Skylar and yeah, was so not a fan.

Jo is the camp owner Mack’s daughter. She wears cargo shorts and t-shirts. She has trouble understanding social cues. She is often called Mini-Mack. She’s the tomboy of the bunch. I kept associating her with Jo from Little Women, but she’s not half as interesting as Jo March, unfortunately. I mean, okay, she’s likable. She is different and mostly proud of that. BUT OMG SHE IS SO OBLIVIOUS. So, so oblivious.

So, I will come out and say that I did not entirely identify with the characters and thought they were a bit much for me. However, what kind of redeems this book is how well Five Summers by Una LaMarche captures the nostalgia of camp and how you can’t go back again. It captures what growing up and moving on looks like. This book is totally one of those coming of age books. However, the romance was a total let down BUT at the same time, the friendship focus is great. However, I just would have liked more kissing and swoons. In all, not my favorite book of all time, but a good summer read featuring an awesome setting.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. It is really interesting how few summer camp books there are in the world. I was going to put a post together on them, but there’re only, like…5 good ones. Maybe. (If you haven’t read The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by McVoy yet, be sure to!)

    Like you, I think the big seller for me with Five Summers was the setting—the camp, the friends, the activities. LaMarche really sold that aspect, and I was able to be nostalgic and “good old days”-y. I loved the friendship also—even though the characters weren’t the BEST, the relationships were better.
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  2. This has been on my TBR list for a while! I hope to read this within the next few weeks, in keeping up with the summer season 🙂
    I never had the opportunity to go to camp, so I LOVE reading books in that setting so I can see what I missed out on.
    Great review!
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  3. Thanks for the review, I was very intrigued by this book, since it sounded so good and I loved the cover, I think that after reading your thoughts I’m going to approach it a little more carefully.

    Thanks again
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  4. Omg, this book is perfect for me! I’ve been wondering the past few days if there were any Young Adult books out that take place at a summer camp. This is a dream come true! I’m having nostalgia for something that hasn’t happened to me. The only camp I’ve gone to is like you, only a week and also a church camp to boot. Though I did go for three years…I’m going to have to watch The Parent Trap soon for the sole fact that the first thirty minutes take place at camp…

    Anyway, this book sounds great. I’m going to add it to my list of books to buy/borrow. I love that the main characters are all girls, just…because. I like friendship books a lot. I love that it also has alternate point of views, that’s really nice and a great way to get into the character’s heads.

    Oh no, oblivious characters are the worst. 🙁 I just want to SHAKE THEM UNTIL THEY REALIZE WHATEVER THEY NEED TO REALIZE. Wow, sorry about that. Ha, just been reading books about oblivious characters lately…
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  5. There’s just something nice sometimes about books that take you back to a time/place/experience you’ve had before, and it seems like Five Summers captured the magic of summer camp well. I also really like that there’s a strong friendship aspect to it, which is probably the reason that I might consider picking this one up!
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