Reader’s Guide

That Summer

That Summer

Written by:


For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She’s nearly six feet tall, her father is getting married, and her sister—the always perfect Ashley—is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley’s reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.


Sarah Dessen’s first novel, That Summer, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, was published in 1996. Her other books include Someone Like You and Keeping the Moon, both ALA Quick Picks and School Library Journal Best Books of the Year. Her fourth novel, Dreamland, was published in the fall of 2000. She lives in North Carolina, where she teaches creative writing at UNC-CH, and is currently at work on her fifth novel.

  • Haven’s summer is book ended by weddings – her father’s at the beginning and Ashley’s at the end. How does Haven feel about each of these weddings? What do they each signify to each other?
  • Why does Haven feel herself so strongly drawn to Gwendolyn Rogers? Do you think the other characters would see this same connection?
  • Why has Sumner become so important to Haven? In what ways is Haven’s relationship with Sumner like Ashley’s relationship with him, and in what ways is it different?
  • The day before Ashley’s wedding, Haven becomes overwhelmed by the summer and acts in ways that seem odd to those around her. Have you ever felt this way? What did you do? Were Haven’s actions helpful in the long run?
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