cover image The Summer List

The Summer List

Amy Mason Doan. Graydon House, $16.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-5258-0425-0

This accomplished debut novel from Doan cleverly blends a coming-of-age tale, the story of a long-simmering mystery, and a thoughtful study of relationships between childhood friends. Laura Christie and Casey Shepherd were best friends as teenagers growing up in quaint Coeur-de-Lune, Calif., but they have become estranged as adults. Seventeen years after they graduated high school, Casey’s eccentric mother reunites them with an elaborate scavenger hunt intended to prompt their reconciliation. The book toggles between Laura’s narration of her prickly 2016 reunion with Casey and their teenage years in the 1990s, when Laura feels out of place in her strict adopted mother’s home and intoxicated by the exuberant tenuous life Casey and her mother, Alex, share. While the conceit of the scavenger hunt and the accompanying tidiness of the mystery about what caused the rupture in Casey and Laura’s friendship stretch the limits of plausibility, Doan’s layered storytelling moves readers slowly toward uncovering what happened to each of the three women. As Laura and Casey move through the items on the list, they reenact previous moments from their early friendship, like swimming in Jade Cove and ice skating at a local skating rink, which slowly works to rekindle their friendship. Doan’s characters leap off the page, believably struggling with the conflict between resentment and tenderness. With lovable characters and a scenic small town, Doan’s pleasant mix of mystery and high school nostalgia will please readers who grew up with the novels of Judy Blume. (June)