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Book Review: Seven Summers by Paige Toon

Book Review: Seven Summers by Paige Toon

Heartfelt, heartbreaking and beautifully, unflinchingly honest, Paige Toon’s latest novel Seven Summers is an emotional story of love, grief and healing that is guaranteed to carry on the long-lasting tradition of Toon’s previous books by charming its readers in an instant this summer. From first love to painful tragedies to realising that life doesn’t always work out the way we plan, Seven Summers is a novel that will pull at your heartstrings and tug at your emotions in both the best and worst ways, and you won’t want to put this book down for a second of it.

When Liv Atherton returns home to Cornwall after university, she has big plans for her future – but first, she’s happy to just look forward to a summer at home surrounded by her friends as she works to save up money for what comes next. Also home for the summer is Liv’s old schoolmate, Finn, only now he’s no longer the shy boy she remembers from art class. Instead, he’s become the cool and temporary frontman of her friends’ indie band and from the moment they meet they’re unable to keep their eyes off the other. Their attraction is instant, and the chemistry is undeniable, but their summer of love ends in tragedy. With life pulling them in two very different directions, they make each other a promise: Finn will return to Cornwall every year, and if both of them are single, they’ll spend the summer together.

Seven years on from that first summer, Liv crosses paths with mysterious newcomer Tom and as they find themselves falling for one another, Liv can finally imagine a world in which her heart isn’t broken every autumn. Tom is steady and dependable, but his presence in her life leaves Liv facing an impossible choice. And when Liv later learns more about Tom’s past, and it’s clear it will have an impact on his future too, she’ll need to trust her heart now more than ever.

Maybe it’s fate, or maybe it’s a coincidence. It’s beautiful either way.”

I have been reading Paige Toon’s novels for so many years that her books feel more like comfort reads to me now, with familiar settings, empathetic characters and often heart-wrenching love stories that offer just as many uplifting and joyful moments as they do heartbreak, pain and angst. And yet, with every new novel, Toon continues to surprise me in so many wonderful ways too, straying from those beats of familiarity in small, unexpected ways that are nevertheless enough to keep these stories moving in new directions.

Seven Summers is no different, even as it hits some familiar notes. The story channels some of the narrative elements we’ve seen before in One Perfect Summer and Five Years From Now, with some emotional notes that feel reminiscent of The Sun in Her Eyes and If You Could Go Anywhere and a touch of the Johnny Be Good/Baby Be Mine love triangle too. But even if you’ve only read just one of these books, you know you’re in safe hands here. Seven Summers is a tender novel with a lot of heart that explores so much more than Liv’s choice between two epic love stories.

This is a book about grief and learning to live with it in all of its many forms and stages, from the agony of the immediate aftermath through to the acceptance and happy-sadness that follows months and years down the line. It’s a story about finding happiness and realising what you value most, and about backing yourself and your priorities even when the choices you’re facing seem impossible. Most important, however, is that this is Liv’s story above all, and with all the time we spend with this kind-hearted, determined, brave and supportive individual over these 400+ pages, it becomes easy to back her 100% of the time, firm in the belief that she’s making the choices she believes are best for her at every possible moment.

As much as I enjoyed experiencing every one of Liv’s seven summers, however, I do wish that this novel had balanced its timelines a little better. The present day timeline feels a little too subdued compared to the intensity of the past summers, especially at the beginning of the novel as we spend more time in the past and fall headlong into a summer of friends, first love and fun right alongside Liv. Equally, I’d have loved to have spent a little more time in the present towards the end of the novel too, with the final chapters feeling like they jumped ahead far too quickly in comparison to the slower pace that we’d been travelling through the rest or the book.

Still, Seven Summers is a charming, poignant read that will have you swooning one moment and tearing up the next. It’s a beautiful story of life and love and loss, and the journey that all of these characters go on throughout the novel isn’t one that readers will forget in a hurry.


Seven Summers is published by Penguin on 28 March 2024

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