Perennials by Mandy Berman

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I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Perennials is author Mandy Berman’s debut novel. I was looking forward to reading this book because I spent seven summers at sleepaway camp as both a camper and a counselor, so I could relate to the subject matter and wanted to see how this (albeit fictional) account compared to my own experiences.

Rachel lives in an apartment in the city with her single mother and Fiona lives in a big house in Westchester with her family. But when they meet at summer camp as girls, they find that they have a lot in common.  

The plot jumps forward to the summer after Rachel and Fiona’s first year in college when they return to camp as counselors. They have grown apart, and they are both beginning to realize that they don’t have as much in common as they used to. Fiona is self conscious about the weight she gained away at school, and Rachel is just looking to have some fun. Of course, neither of them have any idea what will transpire over the summer.

The most fascinating thing about this book is that it features multiple perspectives. It would be expected, of course, to hear Rachel and Fiona’s thoughts, but the reader is also treated to hearing part of the story from the perspective of Rachel’s mother, Fiona’s mother, and Fiona’s younger sister, who is a camper in Rachel’s bunk.

Perennials captures the essence of summer camp so well- the friendships, the contretemps, and everything in between. Camp is the perfect place to figure out who you want to be and what you want out of life, and this is evident in the text.  Berman does a wonderful job of writing a variety of vastly different “voices” and it would be hard to pick which character I found to be the most interesting. I’ll end my review with a caveat: I’m sure Perennials’ summer camp theme will appeal to younger readers, this book contains mature subject matter and is not intended to be a YA or middle grade novel.

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