Beach reading can get a bad rap: it’s fluffy, people say, or not very serious. Really, though, the best beach reads are simply fun reads; and when it comes to books fun is never a bad thing, no matter the season. If we seek out these kinds of books more during the summer, it may only be because there is more going on to compete for our attention. For a book to keep us on our towels while we could be frolicking in the surf or playing beach volleyball, it has to be really engrossing―which is why beach reading season is one of BookTrib’s favorite times of year.
It’s also a great time to dive into the bookshelves of the local bookstore, looking past the new releases for that perfect beach read that might have been overlooked, like Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss (Henry Holt & Co, 2013). The novel, which follows the friendship of Rebecca and Alexandra during the turbulent 1960s in California, was re-released in paperback by Picador in January of this year.
Beyond its cover with two bathing-suit clad women lying on the sand, the book has everything readers look for in a beach read: compelling characters whose lives unfold for the reader over the course of their long friendship; an act of betrayal that changes everything between them; and surprising twists to a story that is narrated by Rebecca directly to an audience who remains mysterious to the reader through much of the story. Chapter two of the book begins, “I should have told you all of this a long time ago.” The story unfolds from there, a series of secrets the reader is eager to hear.
While the mystery and betrayal at the heart of this story make it an obvious choice for the beach, the in-depth exploration of the friendship between Rebecca and Alex is what makes it a really satisfying read. Like so many friends in literature, Rebecca and Alex are opposites. Alex is bold, beautiful, and rich. Aspiring to be an actress, she moves confidently through the world with the privileges she’s been given. Rebecca, on the other hand, is quiet and reserved, and her family struggles to keep up with appearances in their wealthy town. As Rebecca explains early in the book, “I was as blind as anyone as to why she picked me.” This insecurity lies at the heart of Rebecca’s character; it drives her decisions throughout the book and in turn leads to many of the book’s plot twists.
The complex friendship that is developed over the novel will give beach readers something to think about, because, while summer is a great time to escape into the pages of a novel, it’s also a great time to reflect on our own lives and the people—the friends—who are most important to us.