Goodreads: My Last Summer with Cass
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
This One Summer meets The Edge of Seventeen in this poignant coming-of-age YA graphic novel about two childhood friends at a crossroads in their lives and art—from the author of Mastering Manga.
Megan and Cass have been joined at the brush for as long as they can remember. For years, while spending summers together at a lakeside cabin, they created art together, from sand to scribbles . . . to anything available. Then Cass moved away to New York.
When Megan finally convinces her parents to let her spend a week in the city, too, it seems like Cass has completely changed. She has tattoos, every artist in the city knows her—she even eats chicken feet! At least one thing has stayed the same: They still make their best art together.
But when one girl betrays the other’s trust on the eve of what is supposed to be their greatest artistic feat yet, can their friendship survive? Can their art?
My Last Summer with Cass explores art, friendship, and family in a quick graphic novel format that will draw readers into the story–but also leave them wanting just a little bit more.
The story starts with Megan and Cass are five and follows them through their journeys to study art and possibly pursue art as a career. The story is told from the point of view of Megan, whose parents are a bit stricter than Cass’s and whose father would prefer she study business and take over the family hardware store. Personally, when I think of stories about art–the meaning of art, sacrificing for art, butting heads with your family over art, determining your own values in relation to art–I think of My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, which is one of my favorite books. And I think it’s hard to compete with the thought and nuance and passion that Potok puts into his explanation of art. Still, though My Last Summer with Cass is shorter and less complex, I do enjoy that it touches on some of the same themes, while also tying in a thread about friendship.
My Last Summer with Cass falls a bit flat for me, however, in that many of the questions raise seem unanswered. At the end of the novel, I found myself wondering things like, What does Megan’s art look like now, after the events of the book? Is she happy with the decisions she has made? How do her parents feel about her art now? And various other questions, but I won’t list all of them because I don’t want to be too spoilery here. My initial reaction as a reader is that the book left a lot of loose ends, and I wanted to know more, not just to get some satisfaction from the plot but also to hear more about art. I wanted to know what the meaning of everything was after all that happened! Upon further reflection, I think there is one upside to the open-endedness of the book: It would probably make for an interesting discussion in a classroom or book club. The essay prompts for a high school literature class practically write themselves.
The story behind the themes is a bit predictable, but there were a couple twists that mildly surprised me; I do think the questions the book raises are more interesting than the overarching plot, even when the plot is fun. The friendship between the two girls, lasting over years, is also sweet.
This is a book I would recommend if you’re interested in stories about art, identity, and friendship.
Note: I enjoyed the artwork based on what is in the ARC, but not all the frames were finished, and there was no color, so it’s hard to make any definitive comment about it at this stage.