Title: Fourteen Summers
Author: Quinn Anderson
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 238 Pages
At a Glance: While I wasn’t completely satisfied with this novel, I can say it was still a compelling read, with tender and sweet moments that really made it shine.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Identical twins Aiden and Max Kingsman have been a matched set their whole lives. When they were children, Aiden was happy to follow his extroverted brother’s lead, but now that they’re in college, being “my brother, Aiden” is starting to get old. He’s itching to discover who he is outside of his “twin” identity.
Oliver’s goals for the summer are simple: survive his invasive family, keep his divorced parents from killing each other, and stay in shape for rowing season. He’s thrilled when he runs into his old friends, the Kingsman twins, especially Aiden, the object of a childhood crush. Aiden is all grown-up, but some things have stayed the same: his messy curls, his stability, and how breathless he makes Oliver. Oliver’s crush comes back full force, and the feeling is mutual. Summer just got a whole lot hotter.
Fun-loving Max takes one thing seriously: his role as “big brother.” When Aiden drifts away, Max can’t understand how his own twin could choose a boy over him. Summer won’t last forever, and with friendship, family, and happily ever after on the line, they’ll have to navigate their changing relationships before it’s too late.
Review: I labored over exactly how to approach this review for Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson, primarily because I felt there was much to like about this novel. The story revolves around three boys—one identical set of twins, Aiden and Max Kingsman, and their best friend from childhood, Oliver. The story opens with the boys pretending to hold a marriage ceremony in the backyard, when they were still very young, and then picks up many years later when they are in college. Oliver had moved away fourteen summers before, and his parents had finally gotten divorced shortly after. This was actually a good thing since the two fought over everything that came up in their marriage, and Oliver felt both guilt and relief when that came to an end—except for the summer turnovers when his mother had to take him to his father for visitation. Honestly, the two adults (I use that term loosely) could barely tolerate being in the same room together.
This, then, is what shaped Oliver for most of his life, and the brief respite he’d experienced in his younger years spent with the Kingsman family were the best of his life. When the three stumbled upon each other in the grocery story, it’s as if time had never passed—except for the fact that Aiden and Oliver were now out to their families and friends, and increasingly aware of the attraction to each other that had started so long ago. But Max is very protective of Aiden—almost to the point of smothering him—when it comes to life choices and even friendships. Aiden is quiet and has sat back most of his life and allowed Max to make all the decisions, so when Oliver and Aiden realize they want to give dating a try it’s Max who feels angry and left out of the equation.
Now, the three must figure out the difficult road ahead. Aiden knows only that he wants Oliver and will not let Max’s feelings stand in the way despite how much that may hurt his twin. Max is grappling with why he seems to be so jealous of his brother, and why he fears that without the leading role in their lives he may have nothing to fall back on. Oliver can’t stand that he is the reason his two best friends are fighting constantly, and resolves to remove himself from the situation even if that means losing the boy with whom he has fallen in love.
There were a lot of high points in this story, beginning with the tenderness Oliver has for both brothers and the way in which the three of them picked up as if never apart. If you have a friendship like that in your own life, then it won’t be hard to understand how these boys could go from not seeing one another to being in sync again so quickly. I happen to have such a friendship and immediately bought into this aspect of the book, finding it to be very realistic. I also felt the attraction between Aiden and Oliver to be very well done. It was based on pre-existing emotions, so it built quickly, but there was so much chemistry and history between these two that I felt it took off at just the right pace. I also understood the sibling rivalry and jealousy that Max experienced. Identical twins often finish each other’s thoughts and have a language all their own, as if they do indeed share their brain as well as their physical appearance, so the idea that Max knew what Aiden was feeling and how he was being thrown aside for Oliver was very well done, in my opinion.
However, while there were many good points about this book, I also felt that the issues Oliver and the twins had were settled too easily and much too rapidly. For the extent of the angst, anger and fear both Max and Oliver were experiencing, and the freedom to finally do things on his own initiative that Aiden was tasting, I felt the author chose to wrap up those emotional loose ends way too simply. This is the main issue that keeps me from giving this novel a five star rating. I felt so strongly about how things were smoothed over, without really acknowledging the deep-seated issues some of these characters had, that it was detrimental to the established realism the author had tried so hard to build into the story. I felt something more was needed before a happy ever after could be declared, and was disappointed it didn’t happen.
Fourteen Summers is a good coming of age story. It also highlights the first love trope with both sensitivity and a bit of whimsy, making it lovely to read. I think Quinn Anderson has a great gift for storytelling and hope to read more of her work. While I wasn’t completely satisfied with this novel, I can say it was still a compelling read, with tender and sweet moments that really made it shine.
You can buy Fourteen Summers here:
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