I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Perennials: A Novel
Author: Mandy Berman
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Summary (from Goodreads): The quintessential summer read: a sharp, poignant coming-of-age novel about the magic of camp and the enduring power of female friendship, for readers of Stephanie Danler, Anton DiSclafani, Jennifer Close, and Curtis Sittenfeld
At what point does childhood end and adulthood begin? Mandy Berman’s evocative debut novel captures, through the lens of summer camp, a place that only appears to be untouched by the passing of time, both the thrills and pain of growing up.
Rachel Rivkin and Fiona Larkin used to treasure their summers together as campers at Camp Marigold. Now, reunited as counselors after their first year of college, their relationship is more complicated. Rebellious Rachel, a street-smart city kid raised by a single mother, has been losing patience with her best friend’s insecurities; Fiona, the middle child of a not-so-perfect suburban family, envies Rachel’s popularity with their campers and fellow counselors. For the first time, the two friends start keeping secrets from each other. Through them, as well as from the perspectives of their fellow counselors, campers, and families, we witness the tensions of the turbulent summer build to a tragic event, which forces Rachel and Fiona to confront their pasts and the adults they’re becoming.
A seductive blast of nostalgia, a striking portrait of adolescent longing, and a tribute to both the complicated nature and the enduring power of female friendship, Perennials will speak to everyone who still remembers that bittersweet moment when innocence is lost forever.
If you are longing for the days of summer camp, this might be the book for you. There are some really interesting and quite a few diverse characters to learn about. However, Perennials seems to start off following Rachel’s young adult years, but then becomes a scattered tale of events. The book contains multiple perspectives, and while the main story is intended to relate to Rachel and her experiences, it seems that there are many narratives that don’t fit together all the time.
The setting of Perennials is the lower Berkshires – the perfect backdrop for a book of summertime adventures. Berman has captured this idyllic spot in Connecticut quite well through her descriptions of the region. The book will most definitely have you longing for a trip to this mountainous and quaint region of the U.S.
Rachel is definitely the most developed character in the novel, and the book follows her years as a young adult. At times she is very dislikable, and at first it is to show that she is learning from her mistakes. However, once she is in her 20s and is still acting inappropriately, the character becomes strange and hard to follow.
One thing that is really enjoyable in contemporary fiction are characters that are relatable and engaging. Berman has created quite a few unique characters that will appeal to many. Having said that, while this book has encompassed many different perspectives, and makes for a diverse read, it seems to contain too many points of view. There are also no clear indications of a change in perspective, which makes it difficult to follow along with the events in the story. Multiple perspectives definitely add to an understanding of the plot, but when it becomes too muddled it can be too much for the reader.
Perennials is a contemporary novel that has a beautiful setting, diversity, and a summer theme. Although there seems to be the perfect elements for a great beach read, this one falls a little flat. The book has far too many perspectives and story lines to follow.