Summer and the City

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Summer and the City Book Poster Image
Carrie finds herself in New York City in fun, racy prequel.

Parents say

age 2+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This is probably on the guilty pleasure shelf but it IS reading after all, and perfect for summer. Teens who enjoy this book can check out her other YA prequel, The Carrie Diaries. Though this book is set in the '80s, Carrie and her friends discuss questions that are still in the headlines of women's magazines today -- and older teens who read this book with friends may have fun delving into the same questions about feminism, men, sex, marriage and more.

Positive Messages

This is basically a coming-of-age story with a glitzy wrapper. It does model good women's friendships as Carrie, Samantha, and Miranda try to figure out how to grow into the people they want to be.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Carrie doesn't always make the best decisions (readers may be surprised at how little she reflects on some of the bad stuff she does, like sneaking through her landlady's things) but mostly she is a spunky, likable, and real character who is willing to take risks. Ultimately, she finds her voice and goes after what she wants, which is to be a writer in New York.  

Violence
Sex

Carrie has a physical and romantic relationship with a much older divorced man while she is still 17 (though she tells him she is over 18) that involves sleeping over at his house and what she calls "sex" but not intercourse. She later loses her virginity to another man and then has a brief relationship with him. Another character has an abortion after having a relationship with her professor. Carrie fights off a play producer who paws her. Miranda initially says she hates sex, but does end up in a brief sexual relationship that ends badly. Samantha describes losing her virginity at 14.  Plus, there's lots more sex talk including discussion about birth control devices, the role of sex in women's lives, etc.

Language

Some words like "crap," "damn," "a--hole."

Consumerism

Some label dropping, including Chanel, Gucci, Fiorucci -- plus some '80s pop culture references. Back in the early days, Carrie was pretty broke and gets a lot of second-hand stuff.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of drinking, drunkenness, smoking, and some characters take pills (Carrie even sets up an obnoxious book agent who falls down an elevator shaft after taking a pill she thinks is aspirin).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a YA prequel to Sex and the City, so expect what you see in the show: lots of drinking, smoking, and sex talk. Carrie has a relationship with a recently divorced man while she is still 17, and later loses her virginity to another man on her 18th birthday. Even so, there are some good messages here: Carrie doesn't always make the best decisions but she is a relatable character -- and ultimately, she finds her voice and goes after what she wants, which is to be a writer in New York. Like the popular show, the book models good female friendships as Carrie, Miranda, and Samantha together try to figure out how to become the women they want to be.

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What's the story?

Carrie is in New York City doing a summer writing course before starting her freshman year at Brown. When she meets Samantha, she is introduced to an arty and glamorous life in the city, and even begins a relationship with a famous playwright. She stumbles some, but makes friends, meets some of the city's most famous artists, and starts to feel like \"my life is starting to take off here... And if all these other people can make it in New York why can't I?\" But she still has a lot to figure out about relationships, what's real -- and how to find her own true voice.

Is it any good?

The plot is fun enough, but it's the conversations -- especially between the book's familiar protagonists -- that really shine. Fans of the show will certainly see many of the same winning elements of the show here: There's lot of glamorous parties and fashion, plenty of smoking -- and provoking conversations between Carrie and her friends, mostly about sex and relationships. The other part that's the same: The characters are flawed. Carrie especially acts badly at times and readers will wonder if she's truly gaining confidence, or just getting a big head, as she is occasionally accused.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the audience for this book. Does it seem more like its targeting teen or adult readers? Can you think of other books that are trying to reach both girls and women? What would publishers be interested in selling crossover books?

  • The book ends with the introduction of the final friend in Carrie's friend foursome, Charlotte, so readers can probably expect another sequel. Would you be interested in finding out what happens next?  What do you think that is?

Book details

For kids who love summer reading

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