Gwen is a high school girl living on an island where she and her family mostly make their living working for the island's summer visitors. Unfortunately for her, Cass, a rich boy from her school, is working on the island this summer as the yard boy. Several months ago, Gwen made a huge mistake with him and has been avoiding Cass ever since. That goal has just gotten a lot harder. By the time the summer is over, things in Gwen's life will have changed.
As I wrote this, I found that I was bothered by more in this book than I had realized, resulting in my rating dropping from 3 to 2 stars. I had a hard time getting through this one. It started off well, but began to drag rather quickly for me. I just never liked Gwen and Cass as a couple. And with the story mostly focusing on their relationship, it makes liking the book a bit difficult. I just couldn't see why they liked one another so much. Lusting for one another, sure. But liking? Just didn't see it. They were really close when they were eight and then no contact for years until he transfers to her school, where they have some contact, but not very much, yet apparently like each other a lot because of that one summer as kids. And since we only saw tiny glimpses from that summer, I pretty much just had to take their word for it that their connection then was incredibly deep and explained why they liked one another so much.
I just didn't like Cass very much. He is presented as pretty much perfect, but I didn't agree with that assessment. The book starts off with Gwen wanting nothing to do with him, but Cass keeps inserting himself into her life in various ways. It makes the romance feel like he is just wearing her down until she agrees to be with him.
One of the obstacles in their relationship comes from them not understanding the problems in the other's life. But by the end of the story, it feels like only Gwen has to learn that Cass has problems. Cass doesn't seem to really learn the same. He doesn't truly seem to understand that while he has that summer job to build character, Gwen has to work to contribute to her family's expenses for things like paying bills. I'm not saying building character isn't a good thing, but it would have been nice to see Cass realize that other people have serious problems and don't have the luxury of being picky about which jobs to take. Early in the story, Cass expresses surprise at seeing Gwen take being treated like a criminal from an employee and says that no one needs a job that badly. Even when Gwen replies that some people do need jobs that badly, Cass doesn't seem to truly realize that. And when Gwen points out that Cass, who isn't really all that qualified to be yard boy, taking that job means someone else on the island who actually needs that money couldn't get the job, Cass gets mad saying that he has problems too. Seeing as how his problems are revealed to be entirely self-inflicted, I find it hard to feel super sorry for him.
Cass is one of three boys up for the position of swim team captain. The other two are his best friend, Spence, and Nic, Gwen's cousin who lives with her. Before Cass and Spence transferred in last year, Nic was a shoe-in for the spot. There's some resentment over this from him, but Nic also is shown from the start to recognize that they're important to the team if they want a chance to win. Nic works to convince Gwen to tutor Cass so that he can remain on the team, even though he knows Gwen doesn't want to because Nic knows it's best for the team. Nic is incredibly dedicated to the team and is often working out or practicing. Later in the book, however, we see him start to treat Cass and Spence more coldly. Why does this change in attitude happen? He overhears Spence talking trash about Gwen. By the end of the book, Cass and Spence make captain and co-captain rather than Nic because Nic is said to not be a team player. And just to make things better, Cass accuses Nic of being a cheater after the decision is made. We aren't shown any proof of Nic cheating though, and this gets dropped immediately. The only thing I could think of is a single race Cass and Nic hold when they are doing extra practice on their own and Nic jumps out a few seconds earlier than Cass because he is pissed at Cass for hurting Gwen (as far as he knows). So one time in extra practice that they didn’t have to be doing. That’s known as a false start in swimming and would get Nic disqualified in a real race. Meaning, he’s not actually going to be doing that in a real race. So that accusation of cheating is bull. And apparently Cass goes around telling other people about it too since we hear Spence bring it up. Even though that’s not something Nic could get away with in an official swim meet, so he wouldn’t actually do that for real. And our captain and co-captain who are apparently so worthy? Spence knowingly pursues the girlfriend of a fellow teammate (Nic) and talks shit about his cousin, causing some serious discord. And Cass, upon finding out about the girlfriend thing, keeps it a secret. But Nic isn’t the team player for not wanting to spend extra time around those two at practices and for being incredibly focused on improving himself. We see him being a team player at the start of the book with the tutoring thing. Maybe if we’d seen more of the swim team dynamics, I’d understand how Cass and Spence are better choices than Nic, but I just didn’t get that idea from what we are shown.
And that cheating plot line that happened with Nic's girlfriend, Vivian, and Spence came out of nowhere. Spence is shown to be a jerk and a player throughout the entire book. Right until the reveal that he's been seeing Nic's girlfriend and is suddenly completely loyal. It was another case of me completely not understanding what either one of them see in each other.
The big event that happened between Gwen and Cass gets skated around for half of the book. Most of the other characters know about what happened, but it gets hidden from the reader for entirely too long for no good reason other than making the book longer. Instead of making me intrigued about what went down between the two of them, I just grew bored with it. Especially when the whole thing was a giant misunderstanding that could have been easily resolved with one conversation. And ultimately is.
My favorite parts in the book were when Gwen is dealing with family stuff or dealing with her job. Gwen lives with her mother, Nic, little brother, and grandfather. Her father owns a restaurant on the island too, which she sometimes works at. Her job this summer is helping an older resident, Mrs. Ellington, of the island out during the day. Gwen's relationships with her family and Mrs. Ellington were far more interesting for me to read about than her romance with Cass or any of the drama with Spence and Vivian.
I thought the book had a lot of potential with its set-up, but it ultimately didn't work for me.