I finished Perennials by Mandy Berman yesterday and spent the last 24 hours reflecting. It’s not my new favorite read, and if you had asked me yesterday as I was closing the book what I thought of it, I would have told you how extremely disappointed I was. I had high expectations for this book because I’ve lived the summer camp life. While this book didn’t tell the story I expected, or maybe the story I wanted, what it did manage to do was intrigue me.
What I wanted was to follow Fiona and Rachel, the two main characters, through their years at camp. From campers to counselors. From first kisses to first hookups. While we kind of did this, we skipped more years than I wanted. And we followed a number of other characters who each got their own chapter. While we didn’t necessarily lose track of Rachel or Fiona, I also feel like there was a lot happening I would have liked their perspective on.
And then, all these other characters… I want more closure with them! Little conflicts were brought up, were sometimes elaborated on in later chapters, but were very very very seldom resolved.
And the conflicts! Some of the best camp conflicts were glossed over: who slept with who in the boat house, who was smoking pot with the camp director, which campers had crushes on which counselors. All of these things, while not necessarily big issues in every day life are HUGE issues at camp. Everyone talks about them. Everyone has an opinion and a side of the story. I wanted more!
The big conflict of the story happens pretty close to the end of the book. Which again, just made me wanting more. And honestly, I was a little skeptical. Of all the ways for that particular scenario to happen at summer camp, I was not impressed with the circumstances. Read the book and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And you can come back and let me know if I’m too cynical.
But I read until the end. I was invested enough in the characters to not give up on the book. Yes, I wish I had more time with each of the characters, but that’s what I kept hoping for! Because I wanted, needed to know what happened to them. Sometimes I was disappointed by the lack of time with a character, but often I was happy to see their perspective at all.
So while this book wasn’t my favorite, I really do think it had potential. Maybe if you didn’t grow up at summer camp you’ll feel differently about the book. Maybe my expectations were just too high. Or maybe Mandy Berman tried to accomplish too much in this book. I would have read a Marigold Camp series, Mandy! I really really would have.