Book Review: Summer of the Oak Moon by Laura Templeton

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It’s the summer after senior year and the only future Tess sees for herself is one where she can spend her time on the waters near her northern Florida town, despite her mother’s wish that she’d go away to college and follow in her footsteps. She knows the summer only holds procrastinating on collegiate decisions, but when she encounters a snake on the bay and college student Jacob helps her, all her plans change. While their relationship unfolds, Tess finds out that her uncle is trying to steal Jacob’s land, and her upstanding family may have had something to do with his father’s disappearance twenty years ago.

I always do my own little book summary at the beginning of my reviews, and I feel like this one is definitely needed because I dislike the summary on the back of this book. It’s a good summary– too good. I feel like it has almost too much information in it and hints of spoilers.

And there you go. That’s one of my only qualms about the entire novel– the book blurb is too revealing. Otherwise, I loved it.

I read Something Yellow by Laura Templeton as well, and it had a similar vibe. They’re both set in small towns with family secrets and a focus on the dynamic female protagonist. They’re pretty domestic books, not that that’s a bad thing. It just has more of a focal point on family and community and the internal struggles that come along with that rather than action major internal conflicts.

This novel is young adult while her previous one was for adult audiences, but I feel like this almost falls in adult as well. I guess young adult literature is technically classified by the age of the protagonist, but the atmosphere of the book felt more adult, like the emphasis on community and heritage, which is something that most teens do not have in their foreground.

But I still enjoyed reading it. They’re star-crossed lovers (they became this a little too quickly, if you ask me), and the problems they face are from prejudices and community conditioning that led to a differing view of race.

Quick note, the book is set in the 1980s, which I had to keep reminding myself as I read and thought, why is she using a phone book? 

Anyway, Jacob is black and Tess is white and there are major issues with mixed racial couples and racism against Jacob and his family in the southern town. It’s definitely a contemporary novel that deals with real problems about breaking out of tradition– for the better– and realizing that your family may not be as perfect as you suspected.

The writing style screams adult literature, and Templeton uses beautiful descriptions, especially of nature, to add imagery to her novel. The characters can be a little two-dimensional at times, but I think these archetypes are needed because of the type of story it is. It shows the typical white, southern male and his inclination to discriminate based on his past family, and surrounding Tess with these characters allowed a backdrop that highlighted the changes in her much more prominently.

It has deep, meaningful themes that are applicable to today’s society and can be related to by everyone because it focuses on family and people’s interactions. I read this book quickly, not because it’s necessarily light, but because I didn’t want to put it down. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely unpredictable, but it’s fascinating to watch Tess grow and solve the mystery and develop a relationship.

4 Stars

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