Review: How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Friday, May 24, 2013

How My Summer Went Up in Flames
Title: How My Summer Went Up in Flames
Author: Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date of Publication: May 7, 2013

First she lost her heart. Then she lost her mind. And now she’s on a road trip to win back her ex. This debut novel’s packed with drama and romance!

Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious.

To put distance between Rosie and her ex, Rosie’s parents send her on a cross-country road trip with responsible, reliable neighbor Matty and his two friends. Forget freedom of the road, Rosie wants to hitchhike home and win back her ex. But her determination starts to dwindle with each passing mile. Because Rosie’s spark of anger? It may have just ignited a romance with someone new…

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My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for the eARC I have received for review! As always, this in no way affected my views of the book. All opinions are my own honest ones. So let's jump on to the review, shall we?

First, the cover. I love how it perfectly fits the novel. I think it's a definite draw-in especially for readers who love anything with a road trip in it. And the bow-legged stance kind of says "oops", which what Rosie should definitely be saying after she accidentally set his ex-boyfriend's car on fire. Plus, all the bursts of color and the cutesy typography screams summer read. "Come buy me buy buy me! I'm fun, light and quick!" is what it's saying. I love the cover and it's one of the reasons I picked this novel up. (Yeah, totally not because I got it for review.) Plus, I love roadtrips! In fiction and in reality. So much tension and potential in hours or days spent in a moving vehicle, transcending miles and miles of road. And I never say no to contemporary romances. Never. So on a bus ride home, I started reading this in the hopes of once again, finding another contemporary YA romance gem. Sadly, it didn't end up a gem for me.

I have read lots of great reviews of How My Summer Went Up in Flames and while I didn't have high expectations going in (I rarely do that expectation thing with summer reads as it's safer that way), I still ended up fairly disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I liked it enough to finish it and I do know that it's a me thing. I am part of the minority in this so I truly think most people will enjoy this novel. It is indeed a fun, quick and light read, perfect for the summer or any other vacation break, but sadly, it wasn't for me. Here's why.

Most of the people who loved HMSWUIF (it's getting gruesome to type the whole title) loved the main character Rosie. I didn't. In fact, I kind of hated her at times. Rosie's of Hispanic descent and even though it is a stereotype, she speaks her mind up and is full of fire. I like that about her, along with her impulsiveness and rashness. But the lack of brakes of her mouth also comes off as being tactless and sigh, I don't like that in a character. Moreover, she's sort of insensitive to other people's plight. She's kind of self-centered (definitely self-centered) and whiny too. If you have read my Confessions of An Angry Girl review, nothing grates on my nerves more than a whiny character. However, by the end of the novel, Rosie has certainly matured and her character's development arc saved the book for me. Of course, I expected as much since no character embarking on a roadtrip does not grow in the end. Still, it was kind of a test in patience. But a lot of people loved Rosie and all her flaws and insecurities so I truly think it's just me and a bunch of other people who won't enjoy this book as much.

But Rosie aside, I loved all of the other characters so much. Rosie's parents, the little of what we saw of her brother (whose name I can't remember), her girl bestfriend Lilliana, Avery and the boys were all so awesome. Rosie's family is the usual protective and overbearing but totally just-concerned-for-you family and they're close. Matty (her younger guy best friend), Spencer (Matty's friend and Logan's younger brother) and Logan were great people and characters. They each have their own quirks, insecurities and baggage and it makes for great fodder when I'm kind of hating on Rosie. Spencer was so cute and I just like how geeky he was yet totally aware and mature. Avery is the girl I want to be BFFs with. I had fun reading their interactions and their own subplots.

The actual roadtrip was fun as well! Their trip to Dollywood, to Graceland and to these other places I'm not familiar with. I'm used to roadtrip novels going to some known places and I love how I got a glimpse of these other tourist-y places in USA. I especially love the place they went to where you get to vandalize or spray-paint to these cars (Cadillacs if I remember correctly) positioned like the Stonehenge in the middle of a field. That was cool.

So, lest you think I'm full-on hating Rosie, I'm not. I did like how she started to think things through during the roadtrip and how she was definitely a girl I'd more likely hang out with at the end. I also appreciate how the romance element was not the focus of this novel but Rosie's imminent maturity and the friendships she formed along the way. I mean, she just broke up with her boyfriend, got served with a restraining order from said ex's mother and she has a lot of shaping up to do. Jumping right into a relationship wouldn't have been good. Plus, I like how I didn't exactly know who to root for with her until the end. Until now. As the romance is not the main focus, the love triangle was a light one but still, it was a triangle alright. It's a true triangle as well, wherein each guy has a chance. Moreover, I like how the romance was kind of open-ended. No we-will-be-together-forever when it isn't logical or even believable. Just, you're-here-I'm-here-we-like-each-other-so-let's-enjoy-this-reprieve ending.

All in all, I still recommend How My Summer Went Up in Flames as it is a light and quick contemporary YA romance perfect for reading in a beach or while you're in a roadtrip as well. I'm part of the minority in here so I suggest to still go and try this one as you might enjoy and love it. I'm sure those who love the roadtrip premise will also enjoy this book. If not, you can always grab the book because of it's cute cover. :D

About Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

In addition to writing for teens, I’m a freelance writer who has written articles and essays for national publications including, Cosmopolitan. I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer even though I often referred to my college major in English as “PreLaw” because it held the promise that I might actually find work someday.

As it turns out, I did find work. My first paid writing gig was as an editorial assistant for the North Jersey Herald & News, where, in addition to developing a life-long passion for coffee and news, I wrote obituaries for eight months. I’ve also worked as a speech writer, bank teller, ghostwriter, bookkeeper in a lampshade factory, pet shop clerk, and music zine editor.

My debut young adult novel, HOW MY SUMMER WENT UP IN FLAMES, will be published by Simon Pulse in May 2013. My second YA novel, FAMOUS LAST WORDS, about a teen obit writer will be published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers in July 2013.


  1. i agree, Rosie was insufferable the first 100 pages or so, I wanted to smack some sense into her but other time she got so much better and matured so much in such a short time that in the end I really loved this novel!

    great review,
    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

    1. Yeap, I saw your 4.5 rating! I wish I could have looked past it in the end but I am usually really patient with characters. And if they end up on my bad side, there's no going back. :( Thank you for dropping by, Juhina! <3

  2. Don't like whiny characters! They're annoying. haha! Great review :)

    1. I can get past douchebaggery, tactlessness and even murder (if they're an assassin or something) but never being whiny. My own personal dealbreaker, I guess. Thanks for gracing my blog with your presence, Mae! :D

  3. Great honest review, Dianne! :) I know it takes a lot to say what you didn't like in a book in a very critical/pro way. I applaud you! Aww, too bad Rosie is whiny. I like characters of Spanish descent. They're just so exotic! <3

    1. Exotic in beauty and in fire, yes! Aaaww, thanks Precious! That's such a HUGE compliment coming from my mentor. <3

  4. I've seen a lot of positive reviews about this one but this book still didn't catch my interest. I really enjoyed your honest insight, because I now know for sure that this book isn't for me- I can't stand the cahracters you described!

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

    1. I do think this book won't outshine most of the contemporary novels right now so I get why it didn't catch your interest. If you cringed at my description of Rosie, then bullet dodged! Haha! Thanks for dropping by, Ellie! :D

  5. Ohh! I'm not a huge fan of whiny characters, but I can deal with them! I'm looking forward to seeing how this one rates on my road trip books scale. (:

    Great review!!

    1. At least you can tolerate them. I just can't. Haha! Looking forward to read what you think of it when you get to it, Tabitha! Thanks for dropping by! :D

  6. I have wanted to check this one out for a while, but I haven't had the opportunity yet. It is not necessarily a me read, but I think I might actually enjoy this one to a certain extent. But man, my TBR is a mile high and finding time to read books that I just WANT to read is not an easy task

    1. You should try it but if you're like me that at a mere whine from a character and you're rolling your eyes, you might not love this one. Thanks for dropping by, Jaime!


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