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I’ll Bring The Sunscreen If You Bring The Towels

In Erin McCahan’s latest, The Lake Effect, Briggs heads for the beach for that summer sun, sand, and freedom, but what he finds is better than any tan he could’ve hoped for.

I’ll Bring The Sunscreen If You Bring The Towels

BOOK REPORT for The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan

Cover Story: Don’t Go In The Water
BFF Charm: Love
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Sparsely Sarcastic
Bonus Factors: Kickass Gram, Living With Illness, Funerals
Relationship Status: Pick Up Your Walkie-Talkie

Cover Story: Don’t Go In The Water

This cover is perfectly fine and cute until you spy the creeper in the water who looks like he’s humming the Jaws theme under his breath as he sneaks up on that girl reading her latest beach read (THIS BOOK, obvs), even though she can clearly see him out of the corner of her eye and is probably just muttering under her breath, “Oh, God, please don’t come over here, you weirdo.” Is that supposed to be Briggs? Because: no.

The Deal:

Briggs Henry has just scored what he feels is the perfect summer job: being live-in help for a cute, little old lady with a huge summer home right on the Lake Michigan beach. Sure, he has to drive her to her doctor’s appointments and do some housework, but then he gets to spend his free time sunbathing and playing volleyball at his favorite place in the world.

During his first encounter with Mrs. B, a delightfully eccentric gal with a Serbian accent and a penchant for using the wrong English word, she tells him to grab a tie and get in the car, as they are going to her funeral. Uh…what? Suddenly Briggs realizes that his summer may not exactly turn out like he expects it to. Toss in a mysterious-but-hot next door neighbor and the local townies (who have issues with tourists, of course) and Briggs may just be in for the summer of his life.

BFF Charm: Love

I dare you not to love Briggs. I dare you, and then I may have to fight you for him, because he is mine.

Let me tell you a little about Briggs. He’s the kind of teenager who volunteers at a nursing home, and even though people like his dad make fun of it, he secretly likes being around the elderly. He’s categorized and named his smiles into dozens of different iterations, from the There’s My Girl Smile, to the All Right, Law & Order’s On…Again! Smile, and the ever-popular strained Yeah, Dad, You’re a Hoot Smile. He’s terrified of his no-nonsense, sour-lemon-faced Grandma Ruth, but despite that he’s determined to use sarcasm and wit to make her laugh just once (as it’s quite possible it has never happened in his lifetime). He thinks the beach is one of the best places on Earth, and he’s determined to never feel as helpless as he did when he was younger and his dad lost all of their money. His parents gave away his dog, guys. Because they were poor.

You can come and be a part of my family, Briggs; I promise we’re not as repressed and heartless as yours.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

His very first day on the job, Briggs meets Abigail, the slightly strange girl living in the mansion next door who walks her bike around everywhere and occasionally disappears for days. She’s one of the few people who pushes Briggs beyond the scope of normal, polite conversation, someone who he can’t just charm with his I’m Briggs Henry and I’m Just Happy To Be Here Smile.

The swoon in this book feels real-life, like a natural progression of actually getting to know someone to finally trust them enough with your secrets rather than any life-or-death drama we can often get in the YA genre (though, don’t get me wrong, that type has its time and place). I liked seeing Briggs and Abigail let each other in and support one another. It was the perfect summer romance tinged with some tingles and nostalgia.

Talky Talk: Sparsely Sarcastic

I loved Erin McCahan’s Love and Other Foreign Words, so when I heard about her new book, I was all eyes and ears. Thankfully, Ms. McCahan did not let me down. Her writing style manages to feel unique to her, which seems tough to do with so many books at our disposal. Initially the writing feels sort of sparse, with some chapters only a page long and these quick transitions from scene to scene, but at some point you just sink into the style and let it take you away.

And it’s funny. Be warned that if you read this in public, you will probably get noticed because you’ll be chuckling out loud at things like:

Me: ur afraid of Gma Ruth
Sam: Yes. I am. Is it possible shes a robot?
Me: How can I tell?
Sam: Have u ever heard the woman laugh or fart?
Me: Thats the test?
Sam: Yes. Thats the test
Me: Then yes, its possible shes a robot

And:

Somewhere in our previous two moves, [Mom] lost a pair of earrings Grandma Ruth had given her. Since then Grandma Ruth only gave her jars of grape jelly on her birthday and at Christmas. Mom wrote thank-you notes for the “treat” and spooned the stuff into the toilet. She smiled and smiled watching it swirl around the bowl.

Also:

Mom always said goodbye with a list or schedule. Also she believed that no matter what happened, I would somehow be saved by the emergency twenty-dollar bill in my wallet. Car crash? I slip the EMTs a twenty and they work harder to rescue me. Tornado? Sucks up my twenty, leaves me alone. Alien abduction? Totally pay off my own ransom with twenty bucks.

On the flip side, you will also get some profound nuggets like this:

The rabbi asked us—all of us, every person there—to come place two shovelfuls of dirt on the coffin, which, somehow, felt both right and terrifying. Like, yeah, this is what you do when someone dies. You bury the body. You literally bury the body. You don’t let strangers do it while you’re at home. You do it.

This is the kind of contemporary YA book that gives me the warm and fuzzies and has me grinning like a fool when it’s done. 

Bonus Factor: Kickass Gram

Mrs. B technically isn’t a Gram since she never had kids, but she’s a great older lady who dispenses advice and stability to our main character. When Briggs moves in she gives him a walkie-talkie, as she doesn’t do cell phones; calls him Briggs Baby, which he rolls with because Briggs is great; and she’s incapable of deciding on a shade of blue for the upstairs bedrooms. She enjoys going to funerals. She has the cutest laugh. She’s a peach.

Bonus Factor: Living With Illness

Without giving too much away, there is a character in the book who reveals that they are dealing with a serious illness. It’s not your typical Teenagers With Cancer storyline—no one is dying—but it’s something that feels less talked about and yet is no less important. What do you do with yourself with your health fundamentally alters the way you planned to live your life?

Bonus Factor: Funerals

I guess this is kind of a weird bonus factor. Obviously the funerals themselves aren’t that fun, but some funny and weird things do happen at them. Plus, is it wrong to say that reading about the get-togethers that happen after the funerals made me a little hungry? There’s nothing like death to bring out everyone’s infrequently used casserole pans.

Casting Call:

A younger Robert Buckley as Briggs

I’ve been binging iZombie and Robert Buckley has an amazing smile, which is v. important for Briggs’ character.

Mischa Barton as Abigail

Blonde, rich next-door neighbor who is suddenly breaking free of her usually townie friends? Shades of Marissa Cooper right there, albeit a lot less annoying.

Relationship Status: Pick Up Your Walkie-Talkie

You there, Book Baby? I hope so, because I have something to say to you: You kind of rocked my world, and I enjoyed every bit of our time together. Can we do it again next summer and maybe even the summer after? Over and out.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Dial Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Lake Effect is available on 07/11/2017.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.