book review: Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum
Overview: Everyone knows about the rich people that summer in the Hamptons, but what about Fire Island? Bad Summer People follows a group of wealthy NYC families that summer in a tiny town that's cut off from the rest of the world, accessible by ferry only. There's a rotting yacht club, a vibrant tennis community, and plenty of gossip and backstabbing. While there is a death at the start of the book that the end loops back to, it's hardly a thriller. Mostly, it's a lot of truly crappy people constantly screwing each other over for almost 300 pages. Overall: 3
Characters: 3 It's rare to read about unlikable characters that truly have zero redeeming qualities about them. This isn't a book where you care for any of the characters or empathize with them and watch them grow. These people are vapid and terrible from the start and that continues all the way through to the end. There are so many characters that are all so caught up in appearances and town gossip that it's hard to tell all of them apart. I kept mixing up the large cast for about half the book because there are so many of them that we alternate through in a limited third point of view. We never get to see anyone past a surface level, and even though they have messy, complicated friendships and affairs, there's never a look into the complexity of people or what truly motivates them. They're all just chalked up to be compulsive liars, gossips, and cheaters because of the way they're wired. The only thing anyone truly seems to care about is tennis.
Plot: 3 If you want to read what feels like trashy gossip about summer house people, this book does scratch an itch. The drama is at least mildly interesting, and it held my attention once I truly committed enough to finish 90% of it in a day. Once you get into the constant whirlwind of affairs and tennis matches, there's enough meat here to keep you going on a beach read level. There's moments that are definitely heavy handed, and the plot does go in a million wild directions, but it's worthy enough entertainment.
What did slow down the plot quite a bit was the writer's insistence on having many POV characters within this close third, and every time it switched with a chapter, the book would backtrack to recap the most recent event from another POV without adding any new details or depth to what happened. It felt like the author had simply run out of plot or ideas and needed to take up space by writing the same points over and over.
Writing: 3 The dialogue almost made me put this book down. It's so stilted and unnatural. The characters hilariously over divulge information in ways normal people never so that the author can "show" us something instead of "tell." It felt like a few rounds of edits could've made this a juicy, fun summer romp, but it just released half-baked instead. There's definitely interesting elements here, but the underdeveloped writing paired with every character being nearly irredeemable just left me unsatisfied and wishing that the craft was further developed.
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