Book Review: SUMMER AND THE CITY by Candace Bushnell

With no more new TV episodes of Sex and the City and no certain news of another movie on the horizon, I was happy to see the recent release of Candace Bushnell’s Summer and the City, the follow-up to The Carrie Diaries in the YA series about Carrie Bradshaw’s teenage years.

Though I had no desire to read Diaries, which takes place in Carrie’s hometown of Castlebury with unfamiliar characters, I wanted to check out Summer since seventeen-year-old Carrie is in New York City, wearing thrift-shop eighties fashion, taking a writing workshop and falling in love with an older man. It’s also the summer she meets Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, though the last doesn’t appear until the very end.

Bushnell has succeeded in doing the tricky thing of making Carrie’s voice instantly recognizable from the series and movies, but also younger and more naive. Though Carrie is insecure about her writing skills and relationship with her famous playwright boyfriend, her pluck is already evident in instances such as her reaction to a fellow student’s writing:

There’s nothing I hate more than some stupid romantic story about a perfect girl who every guy is in love with and then she kills herself. Because she’s so tragic. When in reality, she’s just crazy. But, of course, the guy can’t see that. All he can see is her beauty. And her sadness.

Guys can be so stupid.

At times, Carrie does get overly dramatic about things but if I cracked open my own teenage diaries, I’d probably find the same angsty thoughts. What I like about both the teenage and adult Carrie is that she makes mistakes but retains her optimism and loyalty to her friends. The young Miranda is already entrenched in her feminism but Samantha is different than the version we know. In this book, Ms. Jones is planning her wedding (wha?) but you can see Bushnell planting the seeds for what Samantha later becomes.

This is the rare YA novel that’s both appropriate for its target demographic and enjoyable by women beyond that age group. Teenage girls can be entertained by Carrie’s sense of romanticism and adventure in New York City, while it doesn’t hurt the rest of us to be reminded of a time when we were fearless and life was full of possibilities.

Nerd verdict: Breezy Summer

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Janet Rudolph
    May 20, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Thanks for the review. I’ll pick it up, because of course I’m fascinated with the characters, and I look forward to reading an honest YA novel about them..or about Carrie..

  • Reply
    Novelwhore
    May 20, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I must admit I’m a little surprised to see this book reviewed here – and so positively! I most likely wouldn’t have given this another thought, but if it was enjoyable to you I’ll have to take another look.

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    May 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Janet—It’s a quick read. It was interesting to compare the ladies to their younger selves.

    Novelwhore—It helped that I was predisposed to liking Carrie. And when I was about 15 or 16, I also went to NYC to take a writing workshop at Columbia so I could relate a little to how Carrie felt about her big adventure in the city.

  • Reply
    Reader#9
    May 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I miss the series, but have been underwhelmed by the movies. Never read any of the books. This sounds like a fun, Summer read.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    May 20, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I’d be tempted to buy it just for the cover ~ it’s gorgeous! Thanks for reviewing this one, PCN ~ it was unexpected, and I’d now consider reading it rather than just using it as a styling prop. {I read some of my one remaining teenage diary not long ago and chuckled over my melodramas.}

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      Oh goodness, my teenage musings were ridiculous. I read my old diaries whenever I need a good laugh. And yes, the cover’s quite lovely. I carry the book around and pretend I’m holding a fancy designer clutch. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

  • Reply
    Paulette Feeney
    May 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I am so glad you liked this….I will save it for end of summer (which is August 15 this year!…cannot believe school starts so early)

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