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Summer of Salt

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A magic passed down through generations . . .

Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has been passed down through every woman in her family. Her twin sister, Mary, already shows an ability to defy gravity. But with their eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.

An island where strange things happen . . .

No one on the island of By-the-Sea would ever call the Fernwehs what they really are, but if you need the odd bit of help—say, a sleeping aid concocted by moonlight—they are the ones to ask.

No one questions the weather, as moody and erratic as a summer storm.

No one questions the (allegedly) three-hundred-year-old bird who comes to roost on the island every year.

A summer that will become legend . . .

When tragedy strikes, what made the Fernweh women special suddenly casts them in suspicion. Over the course of her last summer on the island—a summer of storms, of love, of salt—Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in all its many forms.

288 pages, ebook

First published June 5, 2018

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About the author

Katrina Leno

9 books1,084 followers
Katrina Leno has written a few books. She has also read a few books. Ah, books. You know?

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5 stars
2,914 (32%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,041 reviews
Profile Image for emma.
1,867 reviews54.4k followers
Currently reading
September 22, 2023
it's another installment of PROJECT 5 STAR, a devious plan in which i ask for trouble by rereading books i've previously rated five stars.

let's see what happens.

original review


Dear universe,

I filed a formal request to leave this reality and move into the world of this book nearly three months ago, and yet here I am, still here.


So what’s the deal.

This reality is fine and all, but if given the option (and I am choosing to give myself the option), I would much rather live in an island world of beautiful ocean landscapes and lovely giant birds and wonderful little inns and divine magical justice, thanks.

If this is not possible, I would be happy with any Katrina Leno world.

Because she is just fantastic.

I love these gorgeous flawed characters so much. I love the inn and I love the island. I love the way this FEELS - so, so real, which is my favorite way for magical realism to feel.

This is so atmospheric and beautifully written and sometimes funny.

I just wish the world we lived in was this world.

Bottom line: This slim little book is so powerful.


holy sh*t.

review to come / 5 stars????

tbr review

so the cover of this is cute + magical...and the first 50 pages are cute + magical...coincidence? i think not.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,172 reviews98.8k followers
September 12, 2020

“Of all the stories about my family, the Fernweh women and the island of By-the-Sea, there are two that no one will ever forget. One is the story of how my sister, Mary, and I were born. And the other is the story of the summer we turned eighteen. This summer.”

This was nothing short of a beautiful delight to read. This was moving, and powerful, and magical, and sweet, yet also heartbreaking. This reads like a mix between Girl Made of Stars and The Wicked Deep, and if you love either (bonus points for both) then you will completely love this story, too!

This book is set on a very small island, where Georgina and Mary’s graduating class only consisted of 30ish kids. This summer is not only Georgina and Mary’s eighteenth birthday, but it is also the last summer before they leave the island for the first time to go away to college. Their mother runs the inn that has been in their family for many generations. Yet, no one really stays until the summer solstice, when a magical bird comes to the island and attracts so many tourists.

Georgina - Our main character, a lesbian, and a witch who has not discovered her power(s).
Mary - Georgina’s twin sister, who has already discovered that her power allows her to float in midair.
Vira - Georgina’s best friend, who works at the local ice cream parlor, who is aroace, and my freakin’ favorite.
Prue - Visiting the island, bisexual, and has feelings for Georgina.
Harrison - Prue’s brother, who has come to the island to see a bird that appears every summer.
Annabella - The magical, one of a kind, bird, who also might be somehow related to Georgina and Mary.

“I think a person can be a home, sometimes, just as much as a place or a house can.”

The entire island, and all of these character’s lives change when Annabella doesn’t make her annual arrival to the island. Georgina makes it her mission to not only find out what happened to Annabella, but also what happened to her sister, Mary, because she is acting really depressed and secretive. Georgina also is trying to figure out if she will never manifest any magical abilities like most of the women in her family, and she is also realizing that maybe she has real feelings for someone visiting the island this summer.

Yet, this book also has a darker message about rape and rape culture and the topic is laced throughout the entire story, so please use caution. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship with the person. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex before. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. It doesn’t matter what you’ve said before. It doesn’t matter any circumstances; if it’s not consensual then it is rape. Rape culture is so real, so apparent, and so very much thriving in 2018. And for anyone who needs it, especially right now: I believe you.

“Because there was nothing in a girl’s history that might negate her right to choose what happens to her body.”

This is also a story about sisterhood, and unconditional love, and it discusses the sacrifices that we are willing to make to help the ones we love. This is a book about sexuality and those moments when you feel so validated and you feel like you are finally the person you’ve always wanted to be. This is a book about community, and found family, and respecting your family heritage, culture, and customs.

“How I would miss you—every part of you—but especially the smell, always the smell: of salt, of brine, of water, of spells, or potions, or feathers, and of what it would mean to leave it all in just two months.”

Overall, I just loved this. I think it’s the perfect blend of light and dark. It feels so whimsical since witchcraft is delicately folded in to this story, but it feels so hard-hitting and realistic, too. The messages, discussions, and themes are important and life changing. The characters feel completely fleshed out and I couldn’t help but fall in love with all of them. Plus, the f/f romance in this was magnificent and gave me all the feels. And this story is written so very lyrically, that I never wanted it to end, because I wanted to stay on this island with these characters forever. I truly loved this, and I think it’s one of the best 2018 publications. I recommend it with my entire heart and soul.

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Content and trigger warnings for off page rape and sexual assault, mention of drugging people without them knowing (not in a date rape way, but it still felt bad to read), underage drinking, drug use, anxiety depictions, and an animal death.

Buddy read with Taryn at Taryn and Her Books! ❤
Profile Image for Kat.
270 reviews80k followers
October 30, 2019
a good, accidental read.
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.4k followers
January 30, 2019
Re-read 1/29/19: Finished my re-read of this on the plane home from ALA this morning and idk what it is about reading on planes but it makes everything feel EVEN MORE EMOTIONAL? This book is fantastic and I still love it so damn much. SO MUCH.

Original read 8/6/18: I cannot even begin to tell you guys how much I loved this book. I went into it thinking it was going to be a fun, queer contemporary romance with some whimsical elements, and while it did feature all of those things, it was SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. This is my new favorite book of the year. It’s a mix of the Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and the Wicked Deep and just everything I’ve ever wanted in a whimsical book. I loved this SO MUCH.

(Tw: rape)
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,072 reviews51.4k followers
May 28, 2019
not at all what i expected, but twice as lovely

i'm going to be frank with you, going into this i expected magical realism and rape. that's the two things i had heard about this book. so i kept putting off reading it.

and yes, this book does have both of those things but it has a lot more. the first thing i noticed when reading was the way i immediately felt like i was in By The Sea. katrina leno doesn't rely on overly purple prose but even in the dead of winter i felt like i was in this small magical beach town.

and the characters and their interactions also had a dreamy but realistic quality. georgina and mary's interactions in particular felt very true to my sister relationship. she might be a bitch, but you'd still die for her. mary was so accepting of georgina's sexuality and in return georgina supported her sister sleeping around. no slut shaming here.

that level of acceptance was true of pretty much all the relationships between characters in the book. the friendships were true and amazing. the romantic relationships were as well.

and even though there was rape and it definitely made you feel sad it didn't have quite the same tone as with other books. there wasn't a graphic retelling of the events. and the character who was assaulted got justice instead of harassment. and while there was rape and there was a message there it didn't feel like this book was solely focused on rape culture. which i personally appreciated, since most of the books i've read that speak about rape culture topically don't do the best of jobs.

anyway this was dreamy and lovely and unlike anything i've read before. give it a gooooo
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews901 followers
September 16, 2018
3,5* - Awesome atmosphere, quite a unique premise and a VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE.
(Even though the sentence "Men are always killing things" is definitely too much for me. Please stop hating on man for the sake of feminism, that's not really what it's about)

BUT it was way too short! Especially the last quarter felt very rushed and a little overdone. Everything happened so fast and that just made it feel less real and overdramatic.
The characters could've used a little more depth as well, they were well written but there just wasn't enough.

Still definitely a book worth reading.
Profile Image for Sara.
369 reviews331 followers
January 17, 2021
I really really enjoyed this, it was my ideal book setting with beautiful atmospheric writing.
If you liked practical magic, you’ll love this.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
940 reviews14k followers
September 7, 2019
4.5 stars

New favorite!!! What this book lacked in its predictability and simplicity, it made up for in gorgeous writing, tangible characters, and enchanting world. The best way I can describe this book is Miss Peregrines meets Second Chance Summer, and I love that the magical elements of this were subtle but added just enough of a surreal element to make your head spin--in a good way, of course.

I LOVED the relationship in this book from beginning to end. Georgie's reactions to Prue were so wholesome and hilarious, and Prue being vocal for the first time about liking girls was such a touching spot of the book that will definitely make this unforgettable.

Even though this book was brief (and honestly it would be a five star read if we would have gotten just a liiiitle more description and the writing was tweaked to be more subtle so that I wouldn't have guessed so much), it has a lot of heart. The family relationships in this and the island setting were so cozy and pleasant. Even though this has darker themes toward the end and has a melancholy vibe, it was still addicting and hopeful and had moments of tenderness, like the humor I mentioned earlier.

As much as I would LOVE a continuation of this story, I think it ends in a place that purposefully makes my heart ache for more. This book was just so spectacular that I want more, so I think it's a sign that I should just give more of Katrina Leno's books a read.
Profile Image for joanna ☽ vee.
134 reviews104 followers
May 4, 2018
"Are you happy at all?" she asked tentatively.
"Of course I'm happy. Why wouldn't I be happy?"
"Oh, I don't know. Sometimes you just find reasons not to be."

4 stars for a beautifully written and enchanting book.

Summer of Salt is the magical, whimsical story of falling in love, two twins, and a summer unlike any before. It focuses on a story passed down through generations, on birds-that-might-not-be-birds, on the magic and darkness that lurks just beneath the island's peaceful waves. With inspiration from one of Edgar Allen Poe's gorgeous poems, this book casts a spell over you that lasts even after the final page, and while not without its flaws, it was a really enjoyable read.

this review is also posted on starburnt reads (along with pretty pictures that i took of it!)

I wasn't sure what to expect when diving into this novel. The magical-family premise made it sound like the synopsis for Wild Beauty; in the first chapter, I was reminded distinctly of Shea Ernshaw's The Wicked Deep by the witchy seaside setting and the vivid descriptions. However, as I delved in deeper, I saw that this book is clearly its own unique tale.

the good bits

— ▸ It's a heartwarming teenage love story between two girls - Georgina and Prue. It was so wonderful to see the LGBT community represented like this, where the narrator completely accepts her sexuality and isn't judged harshly by others for it. Of course books where LGBT people struggle and fight for their rights are important, because these problems are a very real issue in society - but it was so charming and lovely to see Georgina falling in love simply and easily, a sweet girl and another sweet girl doing sweet things. Leno does a great job of normalising queer relationships, which is something that I feel needs to be done more in the YA genre.

— ▸ One of this novel's really strong points was the writing style. I loved the way that Leno wrote; when I read this, it was like reading a fairy tale, and if I closed my eyes, I could almost picture myself there, on a strange little island that always smelled like salt. The prose is absolutely gorgeous, and really adds to strengthen the story.

"The dead loved promises; the living loved promising."

— ▸ I really loved the twins' characters. In particular, I was fascinated by Mary. She was such an interesting character to read about - full of beauty and magic and happiness, bold and bright and daring - but also insecure, secretive, broken. She had so much more depth to her than Prue; she was just vivid in a way that stays in your mind.

"She was born for oceanside bonfires, long gauzy dresses and uncombed hair, the scent of salt like a blanket you can't peel off your skin. She was born for the smell of the water, for the way it sank into your bones, stained your skin, dyed your blood a deep, salty blue."

— ▸ I loved the backstory as well as the strong female friendship Georgina has with Vira, an aro/ace girl with a unique clothing style who makes the best witty remarks. The dialogue in this book was hilarious at times.

— ▸ The topic of rape is discussed briefly towards the end of this book, and I feel like the author handled it so well. There was plenty of shade towards people in our society who tend to "victim-blame", and pointed remarks about how society should really treat people who've been abused like this. Rather than shaming them and refusing to believe them,we should help them up and offer them kindness. 

— ▸ Despite a slow start, things pick up quickly and soon the story escalates into darkness, mystery, fear and action, culminating in an ending that felt just right whilst suitably heartbreaking and horrifying.

the issues

— ▸ The whole deal with Georgina's powers was a little predictable. This wasn't toooo annoying, but I personally like a lot more guessing.

— ▸ While I do think the romance was charming, I don't think it was amazing. The potential was there, but I don't feel that Prue (the love interest) was ever really, truly characterised. It was insta-love. Given enough development, these two could easily have become one of my favourite YA couples of all time, but unfortunately the romance was a little too contrived and lacking in depth. This was a problem with a lot of the side characters, too: I just didn't know them.

— ▸ The first half of the book leaned towards the slower side, focusing mainly on building up the setting and Georgina telling us what was supposed to happen. This made the story drag a little, but not in a way that made me inclined to stop reading, especially because this is where most of the romance happened.

This is a book that sticks in your head after you read it. Too often, I finish a book and it's sort of this grey space in my mind - I'd remember the characters if I had to, but it otherwise didn't leave an impression. This book, however, clings to you like the effects of a magic potion from a certain Fernweh lady on By-The-Sea. This would be a great summer read.

Thank you to HarperTeen for sending me my first ever e-ARC via Edelweiss!

Summer of Salt, in quotes and kermit:

"You're so f*cking dramatic," I said.
Mary kissed the air in my general direction.


"She wore an ankle-length dress the colour of midnight. Which is not exactly my cup of tea, but adds to the aesthetic. Old inn, old island, old scary dress, you get it, she'd once said."

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Profile Image for Samantha.
440 reviews16.7k followers
June 24, 2019
3.75 stars!

TW: theme of sexual assault (no graphic descriptions)

I read this in less than 24 hours. This was a lovely little magical realism (though not as heavy on the purple prose as others I’ve read) featuring an island town, a family of magical women, and the last summer before college. Our main character is lesbian and many of her friends range the queer spectrum from bi to aroace. This had a firmer grasp on the plot than other magical realisms I’ve read, but I felt it could have used more time with the side characters and some motivations to really flesh out the story. I recommend especially to readers new to magical realism.
Profile Image for Korrina  (OwlCrate).
193 reviews4,555 followers
December 25, 2017
This was just such a ‘me’ book. It was exactly what I wanted to read, and I absolutely loved it.
Profile Image for Katrina Leno.
Author 9 books1,084 followers
September 4, 2018
Feels like this would make a great movie, someone should call Hollywood.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,107 reviews6,569 followers
October 13, 2019
“On the island of By-the-Sea you could always smell two things: salt and magic.”

representation: lesbian mc (on-page), aroace side character (on-page), bisexual characters (on-page), poc side characters, twins.

[trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers]

✧・゚: *✧・゚:* 4 . 5 s t a r s *:・゚✧*:・゚✧

Wow, what an impactful book. From the very start I was drawn in. The atmospheric setting, the characters, the subtle hint of magic - it was a recipe for success and let me tell you, it didn't disappoint. It was so easy to love these characters. I loved the twins, who are so different from one another (something I relate to with my own sister) and I felt for them so, so much. It had tiny little elements added in that made me smile, like that they have their very own book club and the maine coon cat called Horace (wish we had more of this baby angel!).

I've docked half a star purely because I found it quite predictable, but at the end of the day, that didn't have a huge influence on my enjoyment of the book. And is enjoyment even the right word? Because this book had me feeling so, so devastated and angry for the majority of it, but I loved it so much. The core message at the heart of this book had me putting a hand to my heart and nodding along with anger and solidarity -

i mean,,,,,,, wow.

read this book.

trigger warnings: drug use (weed), alcohol, death of a parent (in the past), graphic animal death, sexual assault, rape, toxic masculinity, gun violence.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,607 reviews10.7k followers
March 21, 2023
I recently picked up Summer of Salt as Book #13 for my TBR-Haul Project. Checking 'em off feels good!

I originally hauled this book in December 2018, receiving it as a Christmas gift from my partner. Since then, even though I have read other works from Katrina Leno and really enjoyed them, I never picked this one up.

When I saw this was an option for my next selection for my project, I was so excited. I was looking forward to heading into Leno's backlist for this magical YA Contemporary novel.

From the synopsis, I felt like it would be a perfect, cozy November read and boy, was it ever!

Summer of Salt follows Georgina Fernweh and her twin sister, Mary. The girls live on a little island called By-the-Sea, with their mother, who owns an Inn.

Even though the island is tiny, it has some very special features. The one that draws the most attention is the fact that a mysterious, one-0f-a-kind bird, who the locals have dubbed Annabella, makes their shores her annual summer destination.

Whilst there, Annabella nests solo for a couple of months before moving on. Her residence on island brings many, many birders to the island as well. These birdheads are intrigued by Annabella. They want to see her, study her, just be near her.

She's rare, she's beautiful, she's the Margot Robbie of birds.

Like Annabella herself, the birdheads return year after year, most of them staying at the Fernweh Inn. The Fernweh family is tied to this by more than the tourists though, they share an unexpected link to Annabella as well.

When something happens that disrupts this annual tradition, the island is thrown off it's normal course. Things get dark, the rain starts and many truths are revealed.

I adored every aspect of this book. From the very first chapter the atmosphere that Leno created was exactly what I was looking for. I could taste the salt and the magic. I fell in love with the characters and the rich traditions of the island.

Honestly, Summer of Salt is one of the most beautiful stories that I have ever read. This one hit me hard. IYKYK.

I love how Leno blended whimsy with darker subject matter. It was the perfect ratio. I felt so connected to these characters and everything they were going through as they navigated their last summer on island before college.

The magical realism elements were incredibly well done too; engaging and easy to understand. There's actually a number of different topics explored within this and I found it sort of surprising how well they all worked together.

Sometimes it will seem like a book doesn't know what kind of story it is trying to be when so many things are meshed together, but that was absolutely not the case here. It was really beautifully constructed.

As a person who lives on a small island, 30-miles out to sea, I can also attest to the fact that Leno nailed these New England island vibes. I was definitely relating to it.

You can probably tell, this story touched my heart. I will remember this magical and eye-opening story for a long time to come. 10-out-of-10 recommend!
Profile Image for Lea (drumsofautumn).
622 reviews625 followers
December 22, 2018
Summer of Salt is an incredibly atmospheric book that makes you feel like you're right there with the characters!

“On the island of By-the-Sea you could always smell two things: salt and magic.”

What had initially convinced me to pick this book up was the f/f romance. I'm normally not that into any kind of "witch" stories and don't read much fabulism anymore. But something about this book reached out to me.
And it was absolutely wonderful. I liked the subtle magic so much. The fabulism worked super well in this setting and it seemed completely natural. The writing in general was beautiful and I really felt like I could sense the magic and smell the salt.

This book was filled to the brim with interesting characters and I loved reading about the relationships between all of them. The family dynamics were great and it was so interesting to find out about the different generations of women in the Fernweh family.
While this features a great female friendship and a wonderful romance, the relationship between Georgina and her twin sister, Mary, is really at the heart of it. It is a complex relationship and they go through some tough stuff but you can always feel their bond and I love stories about relationships like that.

“In a family full of girls, you realize quickly that no girls are ordinary. Whether or not they turn into birds, girls could fly and make magic all their own.”

The romance between Georgina and Prue is really cute. I love that we have Georgina as a character who is super sure in her sexuality and has known all her life that she is gay and then Prue, on the other hand, who is a little bit newer to the idea of being attracted to girl. I don't think she uses a label but it is mentioned that she likes both boys and girls.
This also has aroace representation in the form of Georgina's best friend, Vira. Both gay and aroace actually get used on paper, YAY!

The end of this book is incredibly hard-hitting and had a huge impact on me. It gives the whole magic of the Fernweh women a completely different layer.

Overall I absolutely loved this reading experience. It is a quick read but enthralls you completely in just a couple of pages. And it has so many topics and things to think about packed into it. A huge recommendation from me!

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I received an ARC of this through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for scar.
158 reviews410 followers
May 21, 2020
this book landed somewhere between soft, beautiful and delicately creepy. it was infused with love and magic, summer-y, rainy atmosphere, storms and melancholy. the writing felt like a warm, comforting hug. there were girls falling in love, gorgeous friendships, a witchy family and lots of amazing women. i'm glad that the romance, while very nice, wasn't the main focus. i have to warn, though, that it got pretty serious towards the end, but the difficult topic was handled with empathy and compassion (it made me cry, it was that moving). i can only recommend this little gem.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,064 reviews1,473 followers
July 24, 2020
Georgina Fernweh is a painfully ordinary teenage girl who comes from a long line of extraordinary women. Her mother can create magical concoctions to heal most ailments, her twin sister is often found hovering inches above the ground, and one of her ancient ancestors may or may not be a 300-year-old bird that returns to their remote island every summer for a brief two-month period. This bird is responsible for a busy, if brief, tourist season and keeping the year-round island inhabitants prospering. But what happens if she fails to appear?

This initially felt largely like a summer contemporary story with light magical realist occurrences that got stronger as the story continued. The quaint seaside setting and real-world issues that peppered the plot made this a suitable read for the long sunshine-filled days I read it in. The magical undercurrent remained, however, and the mysteries surrounding them were intriguing and complex. I adored both sides of this story and was just as caught up in the many disturbances that threatened the lives of the long-term islanders.

This went from an enjoyable read to a unputdownable somewhere in the second half, when the emotions were heightened with a series of shocking revelations. I tore through the remainder, only stopping to wipe my tear-filled eyes and scream into the void before continuing. This book focused on harrowing topics I didn't anticipate with a graceful sensitivity and brought forth a story that was as important as it was ultimately empowering.
Profile Image for emily.
254 reviews2,191 followers
December 30, 2021
Trigger warnings: Rape; death of animal

I read Summer of Salt over the span of two gloomy, rain-filled days, curled up under a fuzzy blanket and feeling more comforted than I have in a long time.

Over the summer, time became this irritating thing to me that I just couldn't stop paying attention to. I constantly felt like I had to do something, anything worthwile in my time off, like I had to fill every second to the brim if I wanted to call my day 'succesful'. When I ultimately decided to be more gentle with myself, this book found its way into my life (fine, I impulse-bought it on a Friday night because I was feeling empty), and I immediately got lost in its story, brimming with magic and tenderness. Finally, thankfully, my thoughts and worries quieted down and time returned to being the inconsequential concept that it is supposed to be. While reading this book, I became nothing but an observer of something I believed in immediately: The island of By-the-Sea, the Fernwehs, and everything else that Summer of Salt offered me.

I believed in George and Mary, so different yet so intricately connected; I believed in the magic that their family possessed; I believed in the graveyard that was eternally autumnal and, most of all, I believed in the story that was unfolding right in front of my eyes. I got so invested in it all that it felt like I was slowly becoming a part of it, a quiet bystander, silently rooting for the Fernwehs the entire time. I loved getting to know every bit of Summer of Salt and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat (in fact, I already miss it deeply).

I think it's suffice to say that I loved it all. The weirdness and improbabilty of By-the-Sea, the rainy imagery (you don't understand, this entire book is the best thing to happen to a ravenous pluviophile), the dash of mystery and magic and the wonderful lgbtq+ representation (btw, yes, it's true, all ace-spec people are actually badass and lovely, confirmed). The f/f romance was also very soft and beautiful, and I really enjoyed Katrina Lenos decision to interlace it with the story rather than making it the sole focal point. There is also some serious subject matter that was handled in a very delicate and genuine way, which was a welcome surprise. If there was one thing from this book I'd like everyone to hear, it's this quote:
“[...] there was nothing in a girl’s history that might negate her right to choose what happens to her body.”

Personally I will carry these words with me moving forward, and I hope you will, too.

In conclusion: *louder than everyone else* PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!! It needs to get the recognition it deserves!! But also, make sure to wait for a rainy day to read it. Or take it with you the next time you visit the ocean. Best case scenario: You take it to the ocean during a rainstorm.


rating: ★★★★½
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,297 reviews27.9k followers
April 29, 2019
This was a lovely, cute magical book. I typically don't read a lot of young adult fiction anymore, especially those that involve magical realism. It's not usually my thing, but I've been hearing such high praise about this book and the premise sounded interesting enough so I decided to give it a ago, and I ended up really enjoying this. This is a short and sweet novel that takes place over a summer on an island that follows this family of women - and it packed quite an unexpected emotional punch.

I was drawn into this book by the gorgeous writing. It was truly magical, charming writing which I really liked. This book had just the right amount of magic to keep me interested. I loved the main character and her sister and their family powers. I also love that the main character is a lesbian, and her friend is asexual, there's a lot of great diverse representation in this novel, and there are some trigger warnings for: which was so unexpected and added so much more to this story emotionally for me. This story and these characters are so feminist and the message in this book is so important and powerful. It kind of reminded me of the book The Astonishing Color of After with the people turning into birds element of it haha, which is another YA magical realism novel I really enjoyed.

Overall, I loved this story. It's not a new all time favorite, but it was definitely worth reading. I flew through this book in a day, and I just really adore the family this book follows.
Profile Image for ellie.
549 reviews161 followers
October 1, 2018
this book is the embodiment of waves crashing into each other. you know when you’re standing on a beach, and you’re watching a wave make its way to you, and you think to yourself: “i think i should stand here and let myself be taken by the sea.” and that’s exactly what happens by the end of this book. as the last words wash over you, you realize what they mean by the act of drowning: it’s the act of escaping.

i escaped to a small little island over the course of this book, and i really don’t want to come back up for air and let go of these girls, this magic, and these words.

original review:

oh my god i am SO ready for this summer book about girls loving girls

truly GAYreat content
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews192 followers
July 21, 2019
Summer of Salt is a slow-paced, atmospheric contemporary fantasy story with a dash of mystery. It follows Georgina, a Fernweh girl who, unlike the rest of the women in her family, hasn't developed her powers yet. While I thought it was far from a perfect book, I can say that I liked the half that I read while on the beach immensely more than the other, so I do still kind of see it as a perfect summer book. It's a quick, nostalgic novel to read while you have salt on your skin and waves in front of you.

What stood out the most to me about this book was the atmosphere. It kind of reminded me of The Price Guide to the Occult - a less creepy, summer-y version of it - and the flowery writing helped with that. Maybe it was a little overwritten at times, going from pretty to awkward really quickly, but for the most part, I liked it. Also, can I say how much I love that I can now easily pick up f/f atmospheric summer romances? And so many other kinds of f/f books that have nothing to do with homophobia? 2016 me would never have thought, but even if Georgina and Prue weren't the most developed characters ever and even if the romance wasn't the most well-developed or even the most interesting, their interactions made me so happy.

Which is why it hurt even more when I started realizing that the aromantic representation in this book was pretty terrible. At first, I was liking it, as the side character Vira didn't just say that she was "asexual and didn't care about dating", she specifically said she was aroace. Yes, she wasn't the most interesting character ever, as she had exactly the same personality as all the aromantic best friends (is this a new trend?) I have seen in YA so far - cold-but-soft-on-the-inside, tries hard to be edgy and dresses unconventionally. That was fine, if boring.
But then, it came up that her hobby was taxidermy. That was when I started worrying, because aroace characters being associated with death is actually a common stereotype in fiction, and not one with positive implications. Summer of Salt didn't go into that direction, not really; in my opinion, it did worse.
There's a scene in which Vira shows her new kitten to Georgina and then says, unprompted, that when it will die, she'll make a lamp out of it.

I don't know how many people know what the most common aromantic stereotype is, but it's exactly that we are "sociopaths". It comes from the ugly idea that romantic love is the only thing that makes humans... well, human, and so aromanticism is inherently evil and creepy. And more people probably know how cruelty against animals/obsession with animal death has been traditionally associated with "sociopathy".
I like to think that these things aren't well-known, and that's why no one thought to mention that in this book the aromantic character collects roadkill and makes flippant remarks about her pet dying and what she will do with its body. The idea that aromantic people don't feel romantic love and then that must mean that they don't get attached to anything is more widespread that one would think, and it's horrible, damaging and false.

And like... Vira isn't evil. She's mostly portrayed as a loyal friend, but really, this isn't the ~quirky hobby~ you should give your aromantic character (by the way: flippant remarks about pet death are generally unwelcome no matter the romantic orientation of the character) and in any case, I shouldn't have to settle for bad representation just because it doesn't try to outright tell me that aromantic people are evil, just weird and obsessed with death and corpses.
(To give you some context: she is the only aromantic character I've met in a book so far this year, and I almost only read queer books.)

But let's get back to the book as a whole. Another problem I had with Summer of Salt is that it doesn't quite know what it wants to be. For the first half, it looks like a summer-y romance, then it becomes a mystery about a missing, magical bird, then in the last third it's a story about rape, but not from the point of view of the person who is directly affected by it. While having "lighter" stories that deal specifically with that topic but in which the characters are supportive and no one ever victim-blames is important - books that deal with heavy topics but that go out of their way to not be triggering are necessary - I felt like this was completely aimless for at least half the story.
Profile Image for lucky little cat.
548 reviews105 followers
May 20, 2019
Yet another Goodreads-hyped disappointment. Arrrrrgh. Moralistic quasi-feminist gothic tale emerges as one big unholy Alice Hoffman/ Nancy Drew mashup.that's not fish I'm smelling
You're going to need a fresher plot.

No cliché is omitted: we get witchy twins (one gay, one straight, one hot, one not); eeevil stalking the woods; an ultra-wise ultra-witchy mom; cursed ancestor women; and back-to-back wild storms all on one tiny eastern-seaboard backwater resort island. We also get a love story, a and, inevitably, "lessons" about endangered species.

No soapbox-sermon is left undelivered, and the speedy, pat resolution gives short shrift to the book's main conflict.

Uniformly heavy foreshadowing means not a single plot twist comes as an actual surprise.

Not a lot of thought seems to have gone into any of this, including character development and dialog. A teenager (the hot badass twin, actually) uses "nosy Rosey" and "fuck" (twice) in the same sentence, managing to sound like one riled-up grandma.

Last, if you're going to use the old "small-minded small-towners turn on a dime to judge and ostracize one of their own" plot, you'd best bring a bigger boat than the upturned golf umbrella our MCs use to ride out an apocalyptic flood.

keywords: who knew birders would be so mean? mysterious stranger in a Paris-striped shirt; and the rain rain rain came down down down; now where'd I leave my eggs? it's always the quiet ones
Profile Image for Es Summer .
72 reviews175 followers
August 15, 2018
"She was born for the smell of water, for the way it sank into your bones, stained your skin, dyed your blood a deep, salty blue."

This novel reads like a force of nature.
The lyrical prose combined with the love for nature makes it very descriptive and surrealistic.
I think the idea of the story was interesting. I like magical fiction that is written so realistically and this novel is exactly that with a lot details about daily life during summer time.
It kinda reminded me of We Were Liars. I noticed the feminist touch to the story and I really liked that aspect of the story as well.

So, why 2 stars?
I think the mystery element of the story wasn't at all captivating or even interesting. I caught myself being fairly bored with the novel. It would have been more interesting to make it a character driven story and explore the characters more, because they all fell flat and one-dimensional. They were so busy with solving.. this mystery that didn't fit the rest of the story and felt really random.
Because the characters were so one-dimensional, I couldn't care less what happened to them or the dynamics.

To conclude, beautiful prose, interesting idea but the elaboration didn't work out.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,452 reviews2,400 followers
January 13, 2021

"Very magicky."


One of the best written young adult book.

I guess I fell for the characters a little too much than what I had expected. I totally love, love, love the writing. It's so well done!
Once you start reading this book, there's no way you would put it down saying it's going nowhere and nothing much is happening because so many things are happening in this small fantastical island.

The plot revolves around two teenage girls who are supposed to have magical powers sooner or later. It's in their birth line and in their blood but not even their mother has no idea what each of them could become once their magical powers expose themselves. Oh, their mother can make spells and has got her own magical power. A lovely group of Fernwehs!

I love how the plot developed, especially the later half of the book. The first half was a bit slow but there wasn't a boring moment. Everything comes together towards the end.

The story sort of sounds like a psychological crime thriller with middle grade mystery vibes. And yes, it's exactly what it is!

However, I wasn't happy with the so called who-done-it answer the story gave but yes, it's still executed well all things put together.

I wish the other important characters were developed better as well as that of Mary's (the younger sister) character. But I am so glad the story is told from Georgina's point of view. I just love her. She will remain as one of the most memorable young adult characters.

I would say the most disappointing part came with the hype around this mysterious bird called Annabel which the whole story is supposed to center around. But well, I feel like the writing missed out a big part on how to actually focus on it and give a proper closure on this particular fantastical element. I wanted to know more about this bird and the legendary myth that was supposed to surround it. Well, not happy with this part.

I love the other side characters so much! Vira, Harrison, Prue. These three characters hold a secret happy place in my heart. Love them so much!

I feel what the story handled well are the issues of sexual identity and yes, heartbreakingly, the issue of sexual assault. It takes further description on the misconceptions that young adults and people in general hold about such issues.

I love the book as a whole package.
And yes, I got it for the cover in the first place!
Profile Image for Giulia.
705 reviews105 followers
June 12, 2018
"On the island of By-the-Sea you could always smell two things: salt and magic."

I can already feel that this is gonna be an Unpopular Opinion Time 🐸☕️

TW: rape, slut shaming

This was…just not my thing.

First though, lemme point out the diversity in this book:
lesbian main character
aroace side character
bi side character

If I gotta be honest, though, apart from the very appreciated diversity, the characters themselves felt rather…two-dimensional? They weren’t captivating and special.

Throughout the reading experience I was detached, disinterested and, if I have to be honest, bored.
It didn’t help the fact that the romance was completely NOT swoon worthy.
There was no chemistry whatsoever between the two and it even was a bit insalovey. No build-up, no slow burn, no chemistry. It was…with all the due respect, not good, in my opinion.

Moreover I thought the plot was not thrilling. The whole reveal about Georgina and her (possible) magical powers was painfully obvious from basically page 5 so I don’t even know why the author tried to create any kind of suspense, tbh.

I generally liked the aspects linked to the magical realism present in this book but sometimes I also couldn't really care about those either.
I don't know, it was simply a rather underwhelming read.

The writing style was painfully detailed and I guess that’s why I was bored while reading this book. It was slow and the plot didn’t captivate me in the slightest. Most probably that’s because the whole plot turned around a bird - yeah, you read that right - and its (dis)adventures and the effects on people when bad things happened to said bird. I’m sorry if I sound even more cold-hearted than usual but I was painfully not interested in all that.

For as much as the overall message of this book was important (i.e. the traumatic effects of sexual assault), I can’t really say I enjoyed reading this. As I said, the writing style was not my cup of tea, the characters were nothing special and the plot was a bit boring :/

"Except there weren’t any princes on By-the-Sea. We didn’t need princes; we saved ourselves."
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,201 reviews3,674 followers
June 27, 2021
This was really beautiful! It was not what I was expecting but I loved it a whole lot and found the writing to be very evocative of the setting and witchy, emo vibes.

Summer of Salt is a coming of age story following Georgina, a girl from an isolated island, born into a family of magical women, but with no magic of her own. Her twin has magic, is beautiful, and has dated her way through most of the boys on the island. Georgina tends to be in the background and has only had one girlfriend. It's the fateful summer before the sisters go off to college and among the bird-obsessed seasonal tourists, there is a girl....

This book manages to be many things at once. Sweet, melancholy, biting, and hauntingly atmospheric. It really struck a chord with me and I think the magical realism worked very well. I also loved that there is on page lesbian, bisexual, and aroace representation. All of which is done thoughtfully. Really loved this book and was quite swept away to a degree I wasn't expecting.

Note that this book does deal with sexual assault and animal death, though neither occur on page.
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