Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Summer of '69 by Todd Strasser-- Those Were the Best Days of My Life

Summer of '69

Lucas Baker needs to get it together... fast.  His girlfriend is on the verge of breaking up with him, his college plans just fell through, and now it's looking more and more like he's going to be drafted into the Vietnam War.

He wanted to spend his summer getting high with his friends, visiting his girlfriend at summer camp, and capping it all off going to the unprecedented concert/festival called Woodstock.

Now, he's having to make back up plans to try to dodge the draft, worrying about what his MIA girlfriend is thinking (& trying to prove to her that he can clean up his act), and figuring out what is happening to his family as his dad grows more distant.

My sole purpose of wanting to read this book was the Woodstock element.  As an attendant of Woodstock '99, I have all sorts of nostalgia for all the Woodstock festivals.  But this book isn't really about that.  Sure, he goes to Woodstock at one point in the book-- but it's such an afterthought and a blip on the radar that I wouldn't have even included it in the synopsis.

This book is really about a dude who likes to do drugs and worry about things.  And he has plenty to worry about!!  He's right on the cusp of being drafted to serve in the Army during the height of the Vietnam War.  With boys dying by the thousands, it's a valid fear for him to have.  But I didn't really think the getting high part was helping with his dilemma.  But hey, to each his own... I'd probably get high too if I thought I was about to go die in the jungle.

Lucas as a character just didn't do it for me.  He wasn't really likable, he wasn't good at anything or motivated to better himself-- and he was more than a little self-centered.  He sort of reminded me of Holden Caulfield (who I severely disliked) because he would think of doing all these grand things, but never follow through.

What I really liked: I was super surprised to go on this draft journey with Lucas.  My own father was drafted during this time (he didn't end up in Vietnam, but went through all the fears and realities of being drafted, trained, and assigned), so I really enjoyed reading about what it was like for Lucas.  I also found the information that Lucas got from his buddy that was serving over there to be so disturbing and heart-wrenching.  I wasn't prepared for this book to have such sad/serious moments.

This book went deeper than I was expecting, but there still seemed to be something missing.  Was it the fact that I didn't connect with the main character??  Was it the meandering plot that went through a lot of mundane moments to get to the point of the story??  I'm not 100% sure, but there seemed to be something lacking for me.

OVERALL:  Meh.  At times I liked it, but other times I was totally bored.  I didn't love the main character, but I was interested in his overall plight.  I kind of just wished this whole book was set at Woodstock and about something completely different.

Date Published: 4/9/2019
How I got this book: Thanks to Netgalley & Candlewick Press for allowing me to read and honestly review this book.
Publisher: Candlewick Press

Add it to your To-Read List!!

My Rating: 3/5

Character: Tinsley
Book: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

  • The ultimate free-spirit, Stargirl, would be right up Tinsley's alley.


  1. I read this as an ARC for review and had a similar reaction. It did get me thinking about the Vietnam War and the horrors the soldiers had to endure.

    1. Yeah I really liked/was disturbed by those parts. But they were also the parts that felt real and less weird/silly, which I thought a lot of this book was.

  2. Sorry this didn't turn out to be the book you were hoping for! I think it would have been interesting if more of it took place at Woodstock too. I do like this author though!