Em first made it onto the island looking for nothing more than a great half-summer and a little truth about this second part of her family she knew nothing about. As she starts relaxing and having fun with her cousin and aunt in the Pepper House, Em starts to learn what it really means to have the confidence to do the things you love and not worry about disappointing others. The Pepper House soon becomes the B&B that feels like home and the people who work there like family.
Coming from the world of constant expectations bombarding you to paradise island where freedom is comforting, Elizabeth Margaret immediately goes with the flow and adapts to the life she never thought she could have. The mystery with the family secret being the main plot, I thought that Em's insistent investigative nature was helpful to push the story along and an admirable trait. It was the sub-plots that I enjoyed the most: Em's passion for cooking, the budding romance between her and Cade, the awesome cousin she shares a bonding connection with. They all amount to the developments Em makes as a character, and the developments the other characters make as well. It felt appropriate for them to have grown in different forms considering all their personalities and backgrounds. That's one thing I loved about Ms. Greenland's writing style, the fact that every person introduced in the book sounded authentic and realistic.
During the time I was reading the book, I made some off-hand reference to The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han because some of the characters in this book made similar connections with the protagonist that reminded me of another summer-beach read. I won't say they're the same because once I started The Summer My Life Began, I absolutely grew addicted and wanted to go to Outer Banks for a summer vaca, too. I certainly didn't enjoy The Summer I Turned Pretty for various reasons that I won't elaborate on in this review. However, the tone of these two books were comparatively similar and I wouldn't put it past the reader to pick up Ms. Han's novel after reading Ms. Greenland's.
I'm glad this brief summer read is being published close to the summer months because it will just add to the wonderful experience of reading the book under the warm sun.