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If you love YA and/or are looking for the *perfect* beach read listen up.
When I got to read an early copy of The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther, I was FLOORED. I have been a YA-devotee since I was gifted a copy of The Truth About Forever at 13. There have been only a handful of books that have given me that same I’m-seventeen-again feeling like TSOBR did so beautifully. I truly ADORED this book.
For me, it was everything I wanted in a YA, and in any book: characters with depth that immediately draw you in, a setting that transports you, engaging pacing, and swoonworthy romance. K.L. nailed it in all of these respects. Not only is it the PERFECT summer beach read, but it’s a warm and tender and charming story that you’ll come back to again and again — no matter the season.
The synopsis: Meredith Fox has been going to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer as long as she can remember. But this summer is the first one back since the death of Meredith’s sister. It will all be overwhelming, but even more since since the entire extended family will be together for her cousin’s big wedding.
Unfortunately, Meredith’s longtime boyfriend unexpectedly dumped her two weeks before the wedding, leaving her dateless. Luckily, she has the perfect distraction. Her family has a tradition of playing the ultimate game of Assassin every summer, and this year it will take place during the week of wedding festivities.
But her target just happens to be a very cute groomsman. She’s determined to not let herself get distracted, not let herself be lost in another doomed relationship. But as the week progresses, she can’t help falling for him, which may cost her not only the game, but also her heart.
Doesn’t this concept immediately engage you? And it’s just so well done. Between the takes-you-there descriptions of Martha’s Vineyard, the mouthwatering food, and this lovable family, you’re immediately tucked into this dreamy, but achingly real world. You can feel the hope and the grief and the wildness and the heartbreak that Meredith feels and you experience it alongside her. I felt like a teenager again, and that is my marker of a great YA. I truly felt *there.* Plus, there are Taylor Swift references (love!), fun and games and family dynamics, and a boy that will make you blush.
Loved, loved, loved.
I immediately connected with Kaethe to profess my love for the book, and asked her permission to design a matching pencil set. Graciously, she accepted, and even allowed me to ask her a few questions about herself and the book. See our chat below!
(And I’m giving away a copy of TSOBR rules, a matching pencil set AND a book-themed sticker! See below to enter!)
1.) This is your second published novel. How did the process and journey differ from your debut? What was the hardest—and most rewarding—part of bringing this book to life?
This time around, the process was thankfully less stressful—I wasn’t a total deer in headlights! I understood what it took to publish a book, so overall, I felt more comfortable and confident. My editor and I had already revised my debut together, so we knew each other’s creative processes and were on the same wavelength for Meredith’s story.
The hardest part was the definitely drafting stage; not because the words wouldn’t flow—they actually wouldn’t stop flowing—but because I drafted much of this book in doctors’ waiting rooms and my father’s hospital room as he battled brain cancer. His spirit is present throughout the story, and while he won’t get to hold the final book in his hands, I know he is fiercely proud of me. That is, by far, the most rewarding piece of this journey. He would’ve gotten a kick out of this story.
2.) The main character and her extended family spend the summer on Martha’s Vineyard. How did your experiences growing up influence elements of the story?
My experiences on Martha’s Vineyard are weaved tightly into The Summer of Broken Rules! Spending most of my summer vacations on the island allowed me to really bring “The Farm” to life for readers. It holds a very special place in my heart and I think I achieved conveying that sentiment in this book. My vacations were always filled with family, food, and yes, wicked games of Assassin and Man Hunt, and I wanted to honor these traditions in a story set in my happy place.
3.) While reading the book, I felt seventeen again. It was truly the *perfect* YA, full of romance, family, and self-discovery that’s so immersive at that age. What do you love about writing YA? What’s a recent YA you’ve loved?
I love YA because it’s such a time of tumultuous emotions, from first love to “Why doesn’t anybody like me?” to “What do I want to do with my life?” to “Maybe what I thought I wanted isn’t what I want anymore.” There are an endless amount of stories to be to told during the adolescent years.
Hmm…I am about to start Leigh Bardugo’s Rule of Wolves because I’m obsessed with the GrishaVerse (and in love with Nikolai Lantsov), but I ADORED Marisa Kanter’s 2020 debut, What I Like About You. One of my favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail, and whether it was intentional or not, Marisa’s book was its *perfect* contemporary reincarnation. Plus, the idea of a love triangle with only two people in it? How can you not want to untangle that one? It was so cleverly written and the romance was pure sugary sweetness.
4.) I truly wanted the characters in TSOBR to be my BFFs. Which of your characters were the most fun—and the hardest—to write?
Wit was by far the most fun to write (although Wink was a close second), while Meredith’s friend Luli was the most difficult. I love Wit’s outlook on life and cheeky charm and how he both supported and challenged Meredith. Luli was the hardest to write because girls can be mean to each other, and I didn’t want her to come off as mean. She was hurt and wanted to let Meredith know that, so it took a lot of work to strike the balance between a friend whose feelings were crushed and a friend who didn’t want to give up on Mer.
5.) TSOBR has major “beach read” vibes. What are your beach essentials?
I never hit the beach without my tote bag filled with necessities! A book, naturally—maybe two. There are so many family photos of me being antisocial, instead sitting off alone and reading with this serious look on my face. I have my striped chair, my “God Save the Queen” towel, along with my lunch: a roast beef sandwich on sourdough, a bag of Baked Lays potato chips, an ice-old Coca Cola, and something sweet. Headphones, too. I always listen to music while I tan…and inevitably get sunburned because I forget to reapply sunscreen.
6.) From donuts to eggs benedict, there are so many yummy foods described in the book. What is your MV must-eat?
Ugh, you’re going to make me choose?! EVIL! There are so many, but I have to go with Murdick’s Fudge. We are frequent flyers there and buy enough that any rational person would think would last for half the week, but there is always a “Fudge Thief” in the house. The fudge is broken out and passed around after dinner, but then someone sneaks into the kitchen in the middle of the night and our supply has greatly diminished by morning. A round of questioning follows the freak-outs but no one ever fesses up. The hiding spot is changed after we restock, but still, the Fudge Thief manages to satisfy their sweet tooth. It’s not me. I swear. But the chocolate-peanut butter is my favorite!
7.) What songs remind you of TSOBR?
Blanket statement: Taylor Swift, I know you aren’t reading this, but your music is everywhere in this book—and I do mean everywhere (you like Easter eggs, so do I). I must’ve listened to “Lover” a thousand times while writing. Its dreamy aesthetic truly set the tone for this book.
So, primarily: T.Swizzle’s entire discography, but I make long and eclectic playlists for all my books, so here is a selection of other songs…
1.) (Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry – Darlene Love
2.) Ultralife – Oh Wonder
3.) Adore You – Harry Styles
4.) Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
5.) The Best of What’s Around – Dave Matthews
8.) And, last question: Would you win in a game of Assassin? What would be your plan of attack?
ABSOLUTELY NOT! The paranoia would hit me right away and there would be zero attacking in my plan. I’d play so defensively that I actually think I would be a difficult target since I wouldn’t stray far from the house and would question everyone’s motives. You’re not sweet-talking me into a kayak ride!