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download (2)Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Sam and Jeff’s father impulsively carts them off to the beach to spend the summer at a quaint little beach town where Sam immediately begins to realize that nothing is as it seems. Sam is on the verge of “manhood” (whatever that means, Sam still has yet to figure out) and all his brother can talk about is needing to help Sam get laid. The possibilities might be endless for Sam to find a summer fling; the Girls (with a capital g to help Sam separate out the normal girls from the others) have all set their sights on Sam, including the angry and outspoken Kristle.

The Girls are unavoidable and Sam soon becomes inseparable from DeeDee, one who is different than the others. Over time, Sam and his brother learn the truth about the Girls, why they can never leave the beach town, and ultimately what they can gain from guys like Sam.

Bennett Madison’s September Girls has had mixed reactions from Amazon.com and Goodreads reviewers, but I did not let them stop me from approaching this book with an open mind. Madison’s writing style is haunting, frustrated, and even at times a little unsure—these are perfect components for the voice of seventeen-year-old Sam, who is still trying to figure out who he is and what he wants out of life. Sam and Jeff come from a broken family, and each boy has handled it differently. Sam has retreated into himself, and Jeff seems to act out to a certain degree (though this could just be my analyzation of him; I might be wrong, and he may just be an older teen with a lusty sexual appetite and familiarity with his own body.)

In between chapters of Sam’s first person narrative there are short, intriguing passages attributed to the Girls of the island. The reader slowly begins to piece together who they are, where they came from, and what they need to survive. These sparse chapters were perhaps my favorite element of the book. When I saw someone mention “mermaids” in regards to September Girls, it became a must-read. In retrospect, however, I think this is less about mermaids and more a metaphor about transitioning from one part of life to the next.

Sensitive readers should be warned that this book is very much from a male perspective; there is plentiful discussion of male body parts, self-pleasuring, and intercourse. At the same time, though, Sam and Jeff are respectful of the Girls in the beach town, each finding love and redefining their own definitions of love and family.

I recommend September Girls for older YA audiences and adult readers who prefer more depth in the genre, and who recognize that just because a story has fairy tale qualities, we are not guaranteed the typical happily ever after.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperTeen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.