Review: Five Summers by Una LaMarche

Four best friends, five summers of camp memories.

The summer we were nine: Emma was branded “Skylar’s friend Emma” by the infamous Adam Loring…

The summer we were ten: Maddie realized she was too far into her lies to think about telling the truth…

The summer we were eleven: Johanna totally freaked out during her first game of Spin the Bottle…
The summer we were twelve: Skylar’s love letters from her boyfriend back home were exciting to all of us—except Skylar…

Our last summer together: Emma and Adam almost kissed. Jo found out Maddie’s secret. Skylar did something unthinkable… and whether we knew it then or not, five summers of friendship began to fall apart.

Three years after the fateful last night of camp, the four of us are coming back to camp for reunion weekend—and for a second chance.

There are two kinds of books that say summer to me: books that take place at a beach and books that take place at camp. This is a camp book.

I never got to go to camp, so over the years I’ve romanticized it in my mind, the way I have with boarding schools. It’s not often I find a camp book, but I read every one I can get my hands on. (TV and movies too: I’m so excited that this summer there’s not one, but two reality TV shows set at camp!)

This is the story of four girls and their summers at camp. It’s fairly predictable, but a fun read. There’s Jo, the tomboy daughter of the camp’s owner; Emma, the Ivy League bound studious one; Maddie, the one with a secret; and Skylar, the boy-crazy (that’s the polite way to put it) artist. Together they make up JEMS: best friends forever. I liked all the girls and can’t really pick out a favorite. Skylar is probably my least favorite, due to that “unthinkable action.”

The entire book takes place in one present-day weekend, the camp reunion, except for the flashback chapters. The flashbacks are set in reverse, beginning with the last night of their last summer at camp at age fourteen and finally ending the book on their first day of their first year at camp, age ten. It’s the first time the four girls have all been together in three years, although Jo and Skylar have returned to camp every summer as counselors. Emma applied and didn’t make it; Maddie never applied, I don’t think.

I would have loved to read a whole summer camp series, starting with that first meeting at age ten and going through the last day of camp at fourteen, but the flashbacks hit the highlights. I think this might have been better set five years after that last camp summer — Who goes to a three year reunion, and if they do, why not go the first or second year post-camp? It’s mentioned that this reunion weekend happens every year — or possibly the summer after high school. There were times the girls seemed a little…I don’t want to say mature — because they certainly lacked maturity at times — but…old? for seventeen.

This book has just about everything that says camp to me: bug juice, hiking, best friends, swimming and canoeing in the lake, boy drama, camp songs, bunks, and campfires. The only thing missing is a Color War, but Capture the Flag pretty much took its place.

Jo’s father Mack, the camp director, on the rules of Capture the Flag:

“…I want to take a moment to stress that these are not the Hunger Games, so please don’t get carried away…The body may be a wonderland, as John Mayer says, but for our purposes today it is off limits.”

With lines like that, I want more Mack!

Photo credit: Julia Freeman-Woolpert


  1. I really need to read this book, it sounds amazing and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. Also, that quote really makes me want to read it more 🙂

    Great review!
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