An emotional, heart-warming exploration of female friendship, body image, and social media, Weiner’s newest book, Big Summer, is a standout piece of chick-lit.
Daphne is a plus-size Instagram influencer who uses her platform to promote body positivity after negative experiences with her weight. During school, Daphne finds herself cast under the spell of Drue Cavanaugh: a conventionally attractive and wealthy school bully. Despite warnings from her other friends, Daphne stays loyal to Drue until a fight abruptly ends their friendship. Six years later, Drue walks back into Daphne’s life to ask her not only for her forgiveness, but to be the maid-of-honour at her wedding in Cape Cod.
This first half of the novel draws on 21st-century issues in a classic coming of age format. Daphne’s body image issues paired with growing up, toxic high school friendships and social media gives a heart-breaking look into her battle with her size and self-love. She also gives us a realistic look behind the scenes of a plus-size influencer and a deep understanding of our protagonist’s state of mind. It’s clear that Daphne struggles with deep-rooted insecurities despite her body-positive Instagram page, and it’s even clearer when she struggles to deny Drue back into her life in spite of her past faults. And so, forgiveness proves to be a strong theme throughout the novel and forces us to question what we would do in Daphne’s shoes and reflect on personal experiences.
After Drue successfully bribes Daphne with a stunning vacation and promise of hot single men, Daphne agrees to go. Charmingly, once we reach the Cape Cod wedding, the book neatly settles into the narrative. We get to appreciate the growth of Drue and Daphne’s complicated friendship, with the knowledge of their history, alongside Daphne’s venture into dating life and some dreamy sounding scenery.
Whilst I was enjoying reading about the unravelling relationships within the luxurious seaside setting, I was struck when the book took a dramatic genre twist. Initially, I was aware of the fact that the original synopsis reads ‘disastrous wedding’, but I did not expect murder-mystery! Personally, I would’ve liked a warning of such a morbid turn of events, but I certainly got a thrill out of the unanticipated drama. It’s also evident in the writing that Weiner loved writing this part of the book as it picked up considerably. As I was flicking through the pages faster than before, I couldn’t help but find my inner detective and found myself thriving off the anticipation of finding out the killer.
With friendship, drama, and a touch of romance, this book is undoubtedly a gripping roller-coaster of emotions. I would note that the murder-mystery side begs a less critical eye, as the events aren’t the most convincing, and although that sounds like a criticism, it isn’t. Instead, this makes the novel an exciting and, surprisingly, effortless beach read that is easy to pick up and fall back into.
Buy your own copy of Big Summer here.