Invincible Summer

Originally published September 2016

I think she meant “invisible” instead of “invincible.”

Alice Adams’ freshman effort, “Invincible Summer” is the tale of four college friends—Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Sylvie’s brother Lucien—and follows them through a bit more than a decade afterward, as they head out on their own different paths after school is in the rear view mirror.

I picked it up for a couple of reasons, one being that I often enjoy stories about true friendship and the other being that Tom Perrotta lent his name to the cover. And I love Tom Perrotta.

I know now—I may love a writer, but that doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily like what he or she recommends.

“Invincible Summer” is not a bad read, at all. But I think it tries to go where Emily Gould’s “Friendship” goes without making the same connection with its readers. Adams seems to focus most predominantly on Eva, the metaphorical ugly duckling in college, the one that spends time fawning over the man she can’t have—Lucien. But as she grows into her own over the next several years, climbing the financial markets ladder, it became harder for me to feel empathetic toward her as her affections transferred to but go unrequited by Benedict.

And what of Benedict, who was in love with Eva, but then decided to mack on and subsequently impregnate a coworker? Are we supposed to then identify with what is in all likelihood a loveless marriage to Lydia?

And then there’s Sylvie and Lucien. Sylvie, I at least get—passionate about her art, and as a result not really driven to make a living. But I don’t feel like readers ever really get to see behind the curtain with Lucien. Which is too bad, because he’s a mysterious cat. You get the picture that during the group’s college years he made his living as a small time drug dealer, but his story remains largely in the background, and even as he faces the consequences of his line of work, I’m not sure what purpose he serves to the story.

I wouldn’t swear anyone off this book—I think everyone has an audience out there somewhere. And I did keep reading with fingers crossed for Eva and Benedict. But for me, I know there’s better out there when it comes to stories about friendships through thick and thin.

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