Perennials by Mandy Berman
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.
Growing up, I was never allowed to go to camp or play sports. A lot of my friends did, but for whatever reason my parents never really let me do it. Looking back now – it may have been a money thing. I am one of five kids, four of which lived in the same house. I can only imagine how fast those expenses added up and how much worse it would have been had we insisted on camp or sports. Despite that fact, this book still gave me a strong feeling of nostalgia for my younger days. My and my ‘bestie’ still talk, but it is nothing like what it once was and it’s nothing at all comparable to what I thought we would have back in those days.
At the beginning of the book, Rachel and Fiona are only thirteen. By the end of the novel they are nineteen and so much has changed. This book goes over the typical struggles of being a teenager and going through purity and the way it changes our friendships with those around us. Fiona’s self-confidence and weight strugglers really hit home for me and I found myself relating to her in many ways. There are a lot of serious topics in this book – at first I thought it was a YA novel. I guess in some ways it is, depending on where you are in your ‘coming of age’ journey. (I just know I’d die if my 13-year-old niece read this!)
Overall, I did really enjoy the book. The writing is amazing and it is an awesome début novel for Mandy Berman. I will be following her on Goodreads, desperately awaiting the release of her next book. While I did really enjoy this book and all the viewpoints the novel was told from – I did feel that maybe it was a little busy? I love how all the stories connected in the end and I don’t think the ending would have come together as good as it did if it was written differently though.
I give it a solid 4 / 5 stars and I hope to see more from this talented, young author in the future. This is a story about childhood, growing up, and innocence lost. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys camp stories, novels about growing up, and well, just about anyone who is into this type of book. It’s one that I want to add to my shelf for many more reads in the future.