Published by Scholastic Press on April 26, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Source: YA Books Central
The thinking girl's summer romance: a gorgeously written story of love and loss with a thrilling royal twist!
After a car accident claims her mother's life, Sass is sent to Cornwall to live with the uncle she's never met. All she wants is to be alone, to come to terms with the new Sass -- the girl who can't forget the screech of tires, the crunch of metal.
With its rocky beaches and secluded fields, Cornwall is the perfect place to hide. It gets even better when Sass glimpses a silver horse and starts sneaking off to spend time with the one creature who makes her grief feel manageable.
During one of her visits, Sass runs into Alex, the horse's owner. At first, he shows nothing but disdain for the trespassing American. But despite his brusque manner, he feels an affinity for the curious girl with the sad eyes, and offers to teach her to ride.
Sass never expected to feel anything again, yet soon she finds herself falling for Alex. But Alex has a secret -- a bombshell that could shatter Sass's fragile trust. . . and force him to abandon the only girl who made him believe in true love.
Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?
Warning: animal death in this book. Specifically, a horse dies.
Let’s be real, we’re all here for a romance between a royal and a commoner at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s when we’re kids and we refuse to turn off Cinderella or we’re adults and the once-a-generation royal wedding is happening in the UK, but it’s an attractive trope for more than a few reasons. Even more attractive for book nerds: a royal romance that dives into the nitty-gritty. Does One Silver Summer manage to do that? Well, it tries.
The novel starts out well: Sass is a recent transplant to Cornwall after her mother’s death and Alex is a boarding school boy who flees all the pomp to hide out at his grandmother’s Cornwall estate, which happens to be right next to Sass’s uncle’s home. When she wanders onto his grandmother’s property, they recognize in the other a desire to escape from what troubles them and a relationship grows from there.
Hickman’s writing and the descriptions of the land are lovely; more than a few quotes are worth bookmarking so you can come back later and enjoy the luscious language. In addition to Alex and Sass’s love story, we get parallels to the great love between Alex’s not-the-Queen-Mother grandmother and a military man she met during the height of World War II. That ill-fated love story isn’t given much detail, but when the third-person narration shifts from the two young lovers to Helena and other characters, readers can pick up bits and pieces.
Basically, it’s your royal romance when you decide to write it more seriously and less like a fairy tale. Since Sass spends much of the book unaware that Alex is a prince, there are no glitzy dates. They don’t take their relationship officially public either, so there’s no adjustment to the spotlight on Sass’s part aside from what happens when paparazzi take a clandestine photo of them. That’s the kind of book you’re in for.
Though One Silver Summer is remarkably short at 263 pages, the pacing moves slowly because of Alex and Sass’s lacking characterization. The book is meant to be character-driven, but the couple at the center of it is so two-dimensional that it’s hard to make yourself keep reading at times. More villainous characters like Alex’s spurned love interest Plum and gossip columnist Cressida have third-person narration sections as well, but their time telling the story fails to make them anything more than evil caricatures. It’s hinted Plum is under pressure from her father to get with Alex, but this isn’t followed up on.
One Silver Summer is for readers who want a dramatic, literary royal romance. Not everyone wants their tales funny a la The Princess Diaries and that’s perfectly okay. Sadly, that also makes it difficult to offer similar titles since this is among the first YA novels to take such a path with the royal romance trope. Maybe in the future, we’ll see more books like this that improve on the novel’s faults like lacking characterization.