Rachael Allen’s latest book, The Summer of Impossibilities, promises to be another swoon-filled YA contemporary novel. The author of 17 First Kisses, The Revenge Playbook and A Taxonomy of Love, Allen is known for writing captivating romances, even winning the title of Georgia Young Adult Author of the Year in 2019. And when you read the publisher’s description for her upcoming novel, you’ll understand why:
Skyler, Ellie, Scarlett and Amelia Grace are forced to spend the summer at the lake house where their moms became best friends.
One can’t wait. One would rather gnaw off her own arm than hang out with a bunch of strangers just so their moms can drink too much wine and sing Journey two o’clock in the morning. Two are sisters. Three are currently feuding with their mothers.
One almost sets her crush on fire with a flaming marshmallow. Two steal the boat for a midnight joyride that goes horribly, awkwardly wrong. All of them are hiding something.
One falls in love with a boy she thought she despised. Two fall in love with each other. None of them are the same at the end of the summer.
Hidden feelings! Hate-to-love story arcs! Tense family dynamics! This book sounds like YA catnip, and we can’t wait until Abrams releases it on May 20th, 2020.
We’re thrilled to reveal the novel’s stunning cover designed by Emily Mahon, as well as share an exclusive excerpt below.
Mama is basically kidnapping us. Sky and I loaded up all our crap (seriously, Mama only gave us thirty minutes, so there’s a 200 percent chance one of us forgot socks or tampons or something), and we sat in the backseat of the SUV until Mama got in and slammed the door (looking completely unhinged, I might add) and peeled out of the driveway. I think about my dad coming home to an empty house and an apocalyptic display of what used to be his wardrobe decorating the front yard. Bastard deserves it.
I’m a little scared. Mama doesn’t usually drive this fast, and her mascara is smeared all down her cheeks. It’s not like my parents have never gotten into fights before. I mean, of course they fight. Sometimes. Everyone does. But I can’t remember either of them ever using the D word. I can’t stop worrying about it—them getting divorced I mean. And because I’m a really selfish person, I also worry about softball and joint pain and how I’m ever going to be able to tell them now.
I can’t believe Daddy would do something like this. And that we’ve left him. Because it doesn’t feel like she’s leaving him—it definitely feels like a we.
After about half an hour of driving like a trucker on methamphetamines, Mama turns down the angry ‘90s music and clears her throat.
“I’m sorry,” she begins.
“Why are you sorry? You have nothing to be sorry about.” He cheats, and she’s sorry? I could Hulk-smash something right now. Ideally, his face.
But my mama’s voice comes out calm and even. “I could have told you what happened without giving you all those details. And I should have. There are things that parents should shield their children from knowing.” She sweeps a hand over her hair, smoothing flyaways all around, pulling herself back together.
“I’m glad we know the truth.” Even if it does set my teeth on edge.
Sky nods. “I am, too.” She leans forward and squeezes Mama’s shoulder. “We love you so much. Everything will be okay.”
Mama starts sobbing again. Oh, for Pete’s sake, Sky. Just when we were making some headway.
I try to put myself in Mama’s shoes. What must it be like to build your entire life with someone, and then to have it all just ripped out from underneath you? Last fall, I thought I was in love with this guy who plays saxophone in the band—Jonah. We even had sex, but I don’t know.
Sometimes I feel like peoples’ stories are only meant to overlap for a little bit. That’s what I told Jonah, and he took it pretty well. He’s still my friend, and we still get Kernol’s Donuts together sometimes.
I don’t think Mama and Daddy are the type that could stay friends. Maybe if your story gets too wrapped up in someone else’s, the only way out is to tear everything to pieces.
Mama has finally stopped crying again. As long as Sky doesn’t unleash any more of her capital-F Feelings, we should be okay. I decide it’s safe to voice some reservations about our current trajectory.
“How long are we going to stay at the lake house?” I ask. A week? Two weeks? I have a job. And a boyfriend.
“Definitely for the summer. I’m not teaching any classes,” Mama says. “I’ll have to figure out something more permanent for the fall, but don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”
Everything will be fine? “What about my job?” And Reese?
Mama sighs like that will be the one little thing that pushes her over the brink. “I’ll call Mr. Thornton on Monday and explain things to him. I’m sure he’ll let you pick back up in the fall.”
“No, I’ll do it.” Rule of professionalism no. 1: Your mom does not call your boss for you. I guess there’s also the possibility that I could live at home with my dad, but just, nope. Not happening. “Ugh.” I throw my empty water bottle against the floorboard. Sky cuts her eyes at me.
I hate when she gives me that look. The you-are-not-meeting-my-impossibly-high-standards-of-how-to-be-a-good-person look.
“Wait. What about Sky’s softball?” I shouldn’t be the only one acting like a spoiled brat right now.
“I’ll just take a break from playing rec this summer,” says my sister serenely. “This is more important.”
Mama almost starts crying again over that one. This time I’m the one giving the look. The why-do-you-always-have-to-be-such-a-martyr look.
“I called my sisters,” says Mama. “They’re all going to be here tomorrow.”
An important distinction: My mother has no biological sisters. She bought her friends in college. Seriously, what’s more pathetic than joining a club for women with more internalized misogyny than you can shake a stick at? Paying to join that club. We are about to be the victims of an Alpha Kappa Nu invasion.
“Aunt Neely is driving down from Tennessee with Amelia Grace and Aunt Seema is schlepping all the way from DC with Ellie, but they should all be here by the afternoon. Aunt Val and Heidi are already at their house.”
No joke: Aunt Val bought a house on the lake RIGHT NEXT DOOR to ours because she and my mom are that kind of friends. She and Heidi live at the lake full time.
“We thought it would be fun if the four of you girls stayed in the carriage house together.”
“Fun” is not generally a word I’d use to describe a summer with no job, no boyfriend, and no friends. That goes double when your family is falling apart.
At least 30 percent of the tension I’m feeling releases when I realize I don’t have to make a decision about softball. It’s already been made for me. I have time to figure out how to tell someone about the pain and my meds. And I’m so glad I get to see Aunt Val. I can’t think of a life without her in it. She’s come to almost every birthday party Scarlett and I have ever had, and last year we did Thanksgiving with her and her wife, Heidi.
And Aunt Seema and Aunt Neely, I haven’t seen them or Amelia Grace or Ellie since we were little, but all my life, I’ve heard stories about these women. And about the lake. Whenever my mom talks about it, it sounds like one of those beach novels stacked in bookstore windows: friendships forged in sunscreen and secrets, in jet ski races and dancing around bonfires at midnight. Four women who are strong and beautiful and brilliant and most importantly, always there for each other. I can’t wait to be in a sorority someday. Sometimes when Mama talks about them I get a little jealous.
But now, I’m just feeling so relieved.
This might be the thing that gets Mama through this.
This might be the thing that gets all of us through it.
I would rather gnaw off my own arm than go to this effing lake house right now.
I hope the girls like me. They’ll probably like me. Have they grown up their whole lives hearing about me like I’ve been hearing about them? That’s weird to think about.
But seriously, who in their right mind thought this was a good idea? I don’t want to spend an entire summer at a house with a bunch of strangers just so our moms can sit on the dock and drink wine until belting out Journey at two o’clock in the morning suddenly seems like a really good idea.
I guess it will be kind of cool to see Ames though.
“I’m really glad everyone is coming,” I tell Mama.
Scarlett rolls her eyes where she thinks I can’t see, because she thinks I’m brown-nosing again.
Mama smiles at me in the rearview mirror. “Me too.”
The roads are getting smaller now. We’re only a few miles away from the lake house.
And then Mama’s phone rings.
My eyes flick to the clock on the dashboard. 8:45 p.m.
Mama doesn’t answer, but we all know who it is.
Scarlett’s phone is next, and I don’t know why, but that hurts a little.
“Don’t,” says Mama.
Scarlett looks at her screen and winces. “You don’t think he’ll see the yard and think we got murdered or something, do you?”
“He’ll be fine,” I say.
Scarlett gives me this raised-eyebrows appraising look, like she’s impressed by my hard-hearted resolve.
“I left a Post-it on the fridge,” I mumble.
And…the moment of admiration is gone.
“SKYLER, YOU TRAITOR.”
“Well, I just wanted him to know we’re okay. What if he was worried?”
“He should be worried. He should be spending a hell of a lot more time worrying about his own daughters than banging people at work.”
“Scarlett!” I jerk my head in Mama’s direction.
It is only then that I realize we’ve come to a complete stop.
“We’re here,” Mama announces.
Something about the way she says it feels very meta.
“Oy vey, there’s no way I’m tackling all the lake check-in stuff tonight,” says Mama. “That means we won’t have water, but we can brush our teeth with bottled water, okay?”
“Sure,” Skyler and I say together.
Daddy would never have saved the water till morning.
We unload the car and do a quick check inside the house. Sky and I are putting the last of the things in the fridge when Mama comes downstairs in her pajamas.
“I’m gonna go to bed early, but I just wanted you to know that everything is going to be okay. We’ll figure this out.”
She looks like she’s going to cry again.
“Okay,” I say. Skyler says it too.
“We’ll get you an appointment with Dr. Dabkowski next week, okay?” Mama says to me, turning on her Concerned Mom Eyes. “It would be good for you to talk to someone.”
Just me. Not my sister. Just in case I was thinking about forgetting that I’m the broken one.
Mama gives us both one of those awkwardly long mom hugs and goes upstairs to bed. It is 9:15 p.m. Is it a good sign or a bad one that she’s going to bed so early?
“Scarlett?” my sister whispers.
“What?” I whisper back and then feel tricked into whispering.
“Will you sleep in my room with me?” she asks.
“Sure,” I say in my normal voice. I’m really glad she asked. I didn’t want to sleep by myself either.
We put on our pajamas, but it’s so early that we snuggle under the covers of Sky’s canopy bed and watch old episodes of Pretty Little Liars. Aria’s dad is cheating with a student, and Aria’s mom doesn’t know yet. Maybe this was a bad idea.
We turn off the TV and try to go to bed. I toss and turn under the covers, trying to get comfortable, but it isn’t the bed or the covers or the itchy place on the back of my leg or the sliver of light coming in under the door. I feel like I’m walking through one of those funhouse tunnels, and the floors won’t stop moving, and the pieces of my life are spiraling overhead and all around, and I have no idea how they’re going to settle. Will they get a divorce? Who will we live with? Do we have to sell the house? I’m not the kind of person who can just roll with changes like this. I’m not my sister.
“Sky?” I whisper.
She rolls over so she’s facing me. “Yeah?”
I don’t know how to say it so I just do: “I’m scared.”
“It’s gonna be okay.” She rushes to say it the way you do when you want to make someone feel better, but I want it to be true, so I try to believe it.
She squeezes my shoulder under the covers. I roll over and try to go to sleep again.
It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.
But what if it’s not?