Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: "Just 18 Summers" by Rene Gutteridge & Michelle Cox

Just 18 Summers is a novel that follows four families' struggles with their growing-up-too-fast children.  It is told in a rotating perspective where the point of view changes each chapter.  This method allows us to really see the deep rooted inner battles each character is facing: from dealing with the loss of a loved one to worrying about welcoming a baby into the world.  It also gives us a unique view of how each of the characters rely (or learn to rely) on God.

Each family is connected though one person, Jenny, who is not in the book as she passed away before it began.  No matter how minimal interaction the characters had with her, she had impacted all of their lives by being a strong, caring Christian mother.  Her character may be a little idealized because everyone is remembering what they miss about her, but regardless, the way Jenny lived her life and her untimely death helps everyone to appreciate the time they have with their children more.

The novel is full of beautiful family and faith moments, but there was one in particular that resonated with me. Towards the end of the novel where the parents who are expecting their first child recognize that the child does not belong to them, but rather to God: "before he even had a name, he had a purpose and an identity and an everlasting hope that only came from above" (354).  That line, combined with the families praying unceasingly for their children, really expressed what it means to be a family and to put faith in God to care for them.

I enjoyed the focus on family and faith and I found it to be very sentimental and moving, but it seemed like the theme was drilled into my head, rather than just letting those themes play out within the story in a more subtle way.  Every single chapter and issue that the characters face is focused on providing for children and making the most of the time with them.  To add to the neatness of the novel, at the end everything is fully resolved, which just gives an unrealistic portrait of life.

Another small irritation for me was the stereotypical gender roles portrayed.  In the families with multiple children, it always seemed that the mothers were focused on their daughters, and the fathers spent more time with the sons.  It got to a ridiculous level when one of the mothers was hysterical about never having taught her daughter how to cook, but when her son asks to learn, she turns him down.

As I read about the parents in these families trying to make the best possible summer for their children, while also preparing them to be successful in life, I gained a deeper understanding of the emotional challenges parents face raising their children.

This book would be a great read for anyone, no matter what stage of life.  I recently graduated college so I could relate to all of the parents sending their children off to college and learning to let them go, even when it was difficult.  The novel also covers families preparing for a baby, dealing with stubborn teenagers, and raising a child solo, among other family challenges.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.


  1. Great review :) This usually isn't the type of book I read, but I like the premise of this one, and I may have to add it to my tbr list.

    1. Thank you! It's not the type of book I normally seek out either, but it was actually an enjoyable read.

  2. I think those stereotype things would bother me too much to enjoy the book. Things like that get me angry. Life hasn't been like that since back in the 50's, and then only if you were white living like Ozzie and Harriet. And let's face that's so far removed from today. Some of it sounds interesting, but I tend not to like things being forced, probably wouldn't finish reading it. A very nice review though, you showed lots of sides of the book. Well done! Thanks for the follow, I'm now your newest.

    1. I would definitely understand if the stereotypes scared away some readers, but overall it was a good book. It amazes me that something like that got written in 2014! Like you said, it's not the 50s.