That Summer
Author Sarah Dessen
Publication date October 1996
Published by Julia MacRae Books
Publication Order
Preceded by
Followed by
Someone Like You

That Summer is the first book written by Sarah Dessen.In combination with Someone Like You this book was adapted for the movie How to Deal.

Summary Edit

For fifteen-year-old Haven, there's just too much going on. First, there's her father's wedding to Lorna Queen, the local television "Weather Pet." Then, her sister Ashley's wedding to boring Lewis Warsher, who doesn't seem to suit Ashley at all. And Haven can't ignore the fact that she's nearly six feet tall and still growing. Haven can barely figure out who she is anymore, or where she fits in. Then Ashley's old boyfriend, Sumner Lee, shows up and sparks Haven's memories of the summer when her parents were happy, her sister was plucky and carefree, and everything was perfect...or so it seemed.

Plot Edit

That Summer tells the story of a 15-year-old girl Haven, as she copes with her sister's engagement, her father's remarriage, and her best friend's personality changes. Nothing seems stable except for Haven's memories—especially those of the summer when Ashley dated Sumner Lee, who, as part of the backstory, is described as bringing the family together. Within the course of the novel, Sumner reappears in Haven's life. Fed up with the drama in her life, Haven runs away. When she doesn’t come home, her family searches for her. Ashley finds Haven in the woods, where she tells Haven she had only had broken up with Sumner because he had cheated on her, breaking Haven's illusion of their perfect past.

Characters Edit

Haven McPhail

Haven's Mom

Mac McPhail

Lorna "The Weatherpet" McPhail

Ashley McPhail Warsher

Lewis Warsher

Sumner Lee

Casey Melvin

Lydia Catrell

Gwendolyn Rogers

Bert Isker

Where else did I read about that? Edit

Since That Summer was the first book it established key places, items, and characters that appear in the later books.

Sarah's Words from Sarahland Edit

That Summer was the first novel I sold and for that reason it will always be special. It was actually the third one I wrote, after a terrible book I did in college and one that was marginally better the year after. I never intended That Summer to be a YA book while I was writing it: to me, it was just a novel with a teenage narrator. But when I got an agent, she suggested it would be a good book for teenagers. When I look back over That Summer now, I always think that I was writing a bit more freely then, because it was before I knew to worry about reviews or publishers or what everyone else thought. Sumner Lee, Ashley’s long-lost boyfriend, has remained one of my very favorite characters of all time. Plus when I was planning my own wedding, I found that I could relate, in a way I never had before, to Ashley’s Bad Bride Behavior (although I didn’t always want to admit it). That Summer to me, though, is mostly about Haven finding a way to feel comfortable in her skin. It’s a theme that comes up in a lot of the other books as well, especially Keeping the Moon: this idea that confidence can carry you further than you ever could have believed. Also notable about That Summer is that it contains my husband’s all time favorite scene, where Sumner is filming the cheese commercial. It doesn’t matter what else I write, to my husband that’s the best. Hands down.

Covers Edit

Cover Release Date Image
Original cover.

Released in 1996.

Second cover.

Released in around 2003.

Second Cover
Current cover.
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