Nantucket Summer (Nantucket Blue and Nantucket Red bind-up)


By Leila Howland

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"Utterly romantic and fun. I didn't want Nantucket Blue to end." —New York Times bestselling author Jenny Han

Enjoy two books in one! Spend two summers–of love, heartbreak, friendship, and betrayal–in Nantucket with Cricket Thompson. 

Nantucket Blue

For Cricket, a summer on Nantucket with her best friend Jules is a life-changing dream come true. That is, until Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy, and Jules becomes a stranger. And instead of lying on the beach working on her tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise. But it's the things she hadn't counted on-most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits-that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

Nantucket Red

Cricket is headed to Brown University in the fall, but to help pay for her living expenses, she returns to work on Nantucket for the summer, where she finds challenges she hadn't anticipated. As her world opens up in new ways, Cricket questions the future she's been working toward her whole life. With the pull of a love triangle complicating everything, she'll have to learn that success isn't just about reaching goals, but also about listening to what she's been trying to ignore-her own heart.

Praise for Nantucket Blue

"[Howland] evokes the Nantucket setting vividly . . . when it comes to indulgent beach reading, sometimes it's more fun to get pushed over by a wave than to stay safely on your towel." — The New York Times

"Sand, secrets, Nantucket Reds, and romance. A fresh, feel-good debut." — The Boston Globe

"Readers should feel empowered by Cricket's efforts to grow up into a strong, honest, and emotionally intelligent young woman, even as they are enchanted by the romantic and exclusive island setting. This is a natural beach read, but will easily win Howland year-round fans, too." — Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Fans of Sarah Dessen will find much to like here, as the charm of this summery yarn lies in Cricket's open appeal." — Library Journal

"[Cricket's] story is told in a way that is both engaging and alluring. Definitely a standout novel in its genre." — School Library Journal

Praise for Nantucket Red

"Enjoyable and introspective, this is more than just a summer beach read." — Kirkus Reviews

"In this novel about finding oneself and following your heart, Howland creates a character that readers will be cheering for from beginning to end." — VOYA

"Nantucket Red is an engaging continuation of Cricket's story, and its pace is perfect for a long weekend or beach read." — School Library Journal


WHEN I STARTED NANTUCKET BLUE in 2011, i was trying to make sense of the loss of one the most important relationships in my life—the one between my best friend and me. I searched for a book, movie or TV show that would capture this singular kind of heartbreak, but couldn’t find the solace I was looking for, and so I began to write.

In my desire to unpack, through writing, how awesome, complex, and important female friendships are, Cricket and Jules came to life. Of course, I also wanted to tell a good story! I knew nothing could test Cricket, or her friendship with Jules, more than falling in love with the one person who should be off limits. Far out at sea, with windswept beaches and a town that is almost too perfect to exist, Nantucket seemed the ideal place to set these books about friendship, love, and loss.

As all writers know, there comes a point in the writing process when the characters themselves reveal their truths, and the author feels more like a witness than a creator. When Cricket did this, she taught me more about facing change than I expected. Because her journey still resonates so deeply, and because—let’s face it—there is little better in life than a summer of lobster rolls, midnight swims, and first kisses, I am thrilled to have Nantucket Blue and Nantucket Red reissued for a new audience. Come aboard and enjoy the ride!

For my parents and Jonathan

EVEN WITHOUT HOLLY HOWARD AND DORI ARCHER, who’d been suspended for drinking on campus, we were supposed to win that game. The sun was high and white, and the breeze carried the scent of sweaty, shampooed girls and a whiff of the fresh asphalt from the school’s newly paved driveway. The sky was bright blue with three marshmallow clouds. It was such a perfect day for a lacrosse game in Rhode Island that it was hard to imagine anything else was happening anywhere in the world. I wiped my forehead with my arm, blinking my eyes against the sting of sunscreen. My cheeks were hot, my ponytail was tight, and my legs were aching to sprint.

We were playing Alden, our school’s rival for the past hundred years. It used to be all girls, like us, but went coed fifty years ago. They’d been pretty weak all season because Hannah Higgins, Cat Whiting, Sarah McKinnon, and basically all of their strong seniors graduated last year, giving the Rosewood School for Girls a chance to break a ten-year losing streak. We’d kicked their ass when we played them at an away game; kicked everyone’s asses all season long. Our girls’ varsity lacrosse team was, for the first time in a decade, undefeated, and yet here we were, tied on our own turf with three minutes left on the clock, the ball in Alden’s control as they tossed it around, calling out code words for plays: “Princeton,” “Bates,” “Hobart,” “St. Lawrence”—probably where the seniors were headed in the fall. Some of them should’ve studied a little harder.

For a moment there, it was hard to care. It was kind of hard to care about anything the last week of school, with classes, APs, and exams behind us, and summer so close, I could almost taste it. (What does summer taste like? Iced lemonade and fried clams.) The only things left were Founder’s Day, Prize Day, and watching the seniors graduate.

But all it took was a glance to the sidelines to begin to care, and care a lot. The silver bleachers, which usually glared as the sun hit the empty metallic seats, were filled with girls in variations of the school uniform. Siblings from the lower and middle school spilled onto the grass in front of them. Parents sat forward in their collapsible spectator chairs. As usual, mine were not among them. My mother was correcting papers in her fifth-grade classroom, and my father was at his office in the English department at the Rhode Island School of Design, or maybe helping his new wife, Polly, and her adopted Ukrainian son, Alexi. Nina, my best friend Jules’s mom, was usually there in jeans and one of her cashmere sweaters. They were gray or ivory or aqua—the colors changed, some had a belt or a ruffle; but this spring, Nina liked wraps, and she brought them back from New York in glossy shopping bags with ropey handles. That’s where she was now, I remembered. New York.

The principal, former women’s golf champion Edwina MacIntosh, was there in her favorite maroon suit, tortoise-shell glasses, and tightly permed hair. Teachers who don’t come to games were there. Even Mrs. Hart, the ancient English teacher, was there in her panty hose and pumps, one hand on her hip, the other gripping the strap of her beat-up black pocketbook as she peered over her beak at the action.

More important, guys were there. The boys’ lacrosse teams had finished their season last weekend. There was a whole group of Alden guys watching, including my future boyfriend, the delicious Jay Logan. Jules hated it when I used “delicious” to describe anything but food, but that day he was nothing if not a sugar cone of melting sea salt and caramel gelato. He was wearing worn-in jeans and a red T-shirt. His hand swept his chestnut-colored curls from in front of his eyes. I’ve had a serious crush on Jay Logan since the eighth grade. I have a Jay Logan playlist on my iPod with the fifteen songs that remind me of him. The Jay-Z song from when we fast-danced in a group at Dani Gold’s bat mitzvah; the Elton John one that was playing in CVS when I saw him with his mother the summer after freshman year and he asked me what kind of shampoo I was buying; the Coldplay song I played over and over after that time we talked for almost ten minutes at a Brown ice hockey game, etc.

For the first time, Jay was starting to notice me. He’d paid me undeniable attention at Joey Rivera’s post–Spring Dance party last weekend. He followed me onto the girl-dominated sunporch, where pink wine coolers matched pedicures and shades of glittering lip gloss. He didn’t have to stay there with me, our legs touching on the sofa, for an hour and a half when the guys were drinking beer and playing video games in the basement, a mere staircase away. He didn’t have to rest his arm behind me, making it impossible for me not to lean against his boy body, making it so easy to feel comfortable in the crook of his arm.

Now he threw his head back, laughing at something his buddy Chris said. I wondered if I could make him laugh like that, if he was the kind of guy who believed that girls could also be funny.

“Get in the game, Cricket,” Miss Kang, our coach, called from the opposite sideline. I snapped out of my Jay Logan haze and turned to see my teammate Arti Rai, ambidextrous and MVP defensive player for two years running, hurtling downfield like an Acela Express.

“Out of the way, Joy,” Miss Kang called. Joy Gunther, who always had a bud of snot in her left nostril and had only been promoted to varsity because Holly and Dori had been suspended, shrieked, covered her head, and backed out of the way.

I broke right, flying past three of the red-clad Alden girls, my stick in my right hand only. I’d practiced running one-handed catches in the park last summer. By September I was able to pluck the hard orange ball out of the air as effortlessly as catching an apple falling from a tree.

Arti issued one of her signature clean, powerful passes, and it landed with a satisfying weight in my crosse. I drew my stick close to my body, pivoted, and sprinted down the field so fast I could feel the flesh of my cheeks flattening. The bleachers erupted in applause. I heard cowbells, whistles, and cheers. I saw Jules out of my peripheral vision, wide open and angling for a pass. I tossed it to her, and of course she caught it. We always made the connection. The Alden defense flocked to her, freeing me, and she passed it back.

I was in the twelve-meter fan when I decided it was a good day for a bounce shot and propelled rapidly toward the eight-meter arc, then changed my mind, thinking I’d better make it an upper-left-corner drop down, when a metal stick slammed my jaw and a cleat perforated my shin. In two dark seconds, I was on the grass, eating dirt, my hands scraped and flat, my stick flung three feet away from me. I heard a collective gasp.

“Yellow flag,” the ref called. Red flag, I thought. But before I had time to spit dirt, someone was next to me, smelling sweet and pink, like baby-powder deodorant or girlie body spray—the kind that comes in a can.

“Don’t even think of going after Jay,” a raspy voice said.

I lifted my face, holding my breath, afraid that if I inhaled, I’d start to cry, out of shock or pain or both. I turned to see Nora Malloy crouched in a posture that from a distance would suggest concern, but up close was that of a puma about to pounce. From the intensity of her glare, you’d think she was someone I not only knew well but had severely wronged. In reality, we’d probably spoken a total of four times in our lives, and one of those times was when I asked her where the bathrooms in the Alden Sports Center were.

Nora Malloy was a junior at Alden, and I guess she liked Jay so much that she was willing to disfigure the competition. Up close, her prettiness was magnified. I had seen Nora in a bikini last summer at First Beach. It’s not every girl who can pull off boy shorts. You need a bubble butt and lady legs for that. While I had nothing to complain about in the body department, I was closer to a girl than a woman. I’m built like my mother, who even at forty-four is still more girl than woman.

I drew my shin to my chest. No skin had been broken, but I could feel a warm prune-colored bruise blooming on my bone.

“Hey, you got that?” she asked. “Stay away.”

“Whatever,” I said, removing my mouth guard and wiping my mouth. Whatever? Ugh. Why don’t clever comebacks ever come to me in the moment? They only come later, when I’m in the shower or about to fall asleep, or stopped at a stop sign alone in my mom’s Honda Civic, without a witness. Then the comebacks crackle in my brain like static electricity on freshly dried socks.

I touched my lip with my tongue. Please don’t be a fat lip, I thought. Not tonight. Rumors were circulating about a party at Chris’s house, a party where Jay would be. We’d so carefully laid the groundwork for a kiss at Joey Rivera’s. I was determined to get one before Jay took off for Nantucket for the summer.

“You okay, Cricket?” Jules said from her position a few feet away. I nodded and stood, dusting off my knees, the crevices of which were packed with mashed grass. I tentatively put weight on my leg. It hurt, but I was going to be okay. The crowd clapped.

“Hey, Nora,” Jules said in a stage whisper, “I heard you did some laundry at Joey’s house. I’m curious, how many loads did he have?” Nora whipped around, speechless. I covered my swelling mouth with my hand.

“Damn,” the goalie muttered under her breath.

Jules just raised her eyebrows, unblinking. Jules had so many comebacks on the tip of her tongue it was a wonder she could close her mouth. Where, I wondered, did she get the balls?

Miss Kang arrived with an ice pack and the first-aid kit.

“Are you all right?” she asked. I nodded, aware of the little granules of dirt in my teeth.

“I’m really sorry,” Nora said in a syrupy voice.

“Four meters, sixteen,” the ref said. Nora retreated to the twelve-meter mark.

Miss Kang tilted her head sympathetically. “You want to come out of the game, Thompson?”

“No way,” I said, even though my lip and shin were both throbbing.

“That’s the spirit.” She looked at the clock. “Fifteen seconds. Okay, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to go left, jag right like hell, and pop it in the lower pocket.” She turned to the ref and nodded, then jogged backward off the field, smiling at me until she faced forward and strode to the sideline, her short black ponytail sticking straight out from the back of her head. I love Miss Kang.

“Yellow ball,” the ref said. “Find your hash mark, number four.” I did this, nodding at Jules as if to pass. The whistle blew. I cradled the ball, jogging calmly to the left before springing right, straight across the goal, snapping my stick so fast I heard the whoosh. It bounced high just as the goalie slid low, and the ball skimmed the upper-left corner of the net. It was downright elegant.

“Yes,” I said, jumping in the air to high-five Jules. Arti Rai picked me up and swung me around. Miss Kang had dropped her clipboard and was running toward us with her hands raised in triumph. I’d scored my third goal of the game and won the first championship for Rosewood School for Girls in ten years.

“Good game, good game, good game.” Our teams filed past each other in a single line. From ten bodies away, Nora bore holes in me with her eyes.

Nora. She’d been given all the raw materials for an enchanted high school existence: a pretty face, a body that just wouldn’t quit, athletic ability, genuine confidence, her very own yellow Volkswagen bug with a bud vase on the dash. And that raspy voice that oozed sex, that was like a cherry on top, like finding a ten-dollar bill in jeans you haven’t worn in a month. But she didn’t know how to manage the attention that came with being popular. Obviously, in order to be popular, you need to be the kind of person to whom attention is naturally given. But then you have to manage it.

Nora’s downhill journey started last summer when she’d had sex with Paul Duke, a real garbage can, as Jules said, but a popular one. He was known to hide in closets while his friends made out with girls, then jump out once the girl had her pants off. After he had sex with Nora, he’d told everyone the color of her pubic hair (“burnt sienna”) and imitated the moans she’d supposedly made in a three-minute comical opera, whose crescendo was aped by underclassmen after they scored ice hockey goals.

In an effort to get back at Paul, she had sex with Matt Baldwin without him even being her boyfriend. Matt wouldn’t talk to her the following Monday at school. Treated her like the plague. As if this weren’t enough, she did it again with John Dwyer, a sophomore, on an overnight science trip. By September she was known as Nora the Whora. Even I knew she’d done it with a freshman on top of Joey Rivera’s laundry machine last weekend at his party. For a junior girl to go after a freshman guy, that was bad. That was desperate.

It didn’t have to be that way. There was another path.

A few years before, a shy but very big-boobed senior named Jenna Garbetti started to get a reputation. “Can’t get any? Call Garbetti,” the saying went. Instead of looking for validation in all the wrong places, she cut her raven locks into a flattering bob, quit going to parties for a couple of months, studied really hard, and took a silk-screening class at RISD. By April, she’d won some art award and been accepted to Yale. In other words, she turned the wrong kind of attention into the right kind of attention, and by the Spring Dance, she was back on top. Last year, when the senior girls asked me to hang out in their lounge with them and they actually listened to my stories, when I found out Greg Goldberg and Liam Hardiman had an argument over who would ask me to the Arden Spring Fling, when even teachers started telling me that I looked like the girl on the bicycle in the Maybelline commercials, I promised myself that if I started to attract the wrong kind of attention, I’d use the Jenna Garbetti method: lie low, look good, and learn.

“Good game, good game, good game.” Nora and I were three bodies away, then two, then one. When it came time to shake, I put my hand out, but she turned away, leaving me hanging.

As usual, Arti Rai’s mom had brought us mini bottles of Gatorade and made us chocolate cupcakes, this time with peanut butter frosting. As the team gathered around the bench, giddy and hungry, I hung back and made eye contact with Jay. He was standing with the Alden kids, but he was looking at me. He smiled and drew a line across his neck to suggest he couldn’t possibly leave the Alden camp to congratulate the enemy without risking his life.

I laughed at his pantomime, which he dropped immediately when Chris caught on to his traitorous ways. He shrugged at Chris as if nothing had happened, then looked over his shoulder at me and winked. I was about to wink back when Edwina MacIntosh drew herself up to her full six feet and shook my hand. We called her Ed behind her back.

“You have star quality, Cricket Thompson,” she said, nearly crushing my hand with hers. Sometimes she wasn’t aware of her own strength.

“Thanks, Miss MacIntosh,” I said. I’ve been going to this school since kindergarten, so Ed and I are not exactly strangers. Hell, I’d been here longer than she had. Both my mother and grandmother were Rosewood girls, too.

“Judy, wait one moment,” Ed called with a finger in the air as the ref walked by.

“So you know how that party was supposed to be at Chris’s house?” Jules said, handing me a cupcake and starting in on her second. Jules has her mom’s brown ringlets, ski-jump nose, and strong, slim legs. She also has the metabolism of a cheetah.


“Well, there’s been a change of plans,” she said with a full mouth. “I guess Chris’s parents decided not to go to the Cape after all.” She planted her stick in the ground and leaned against it, a makeshift chair. She crossed her ankles.

“So where is it?” I asked, peeling the cupcake wrapper and watching as the Alden crew filed onto their bus, painted the same red as their uniforms.

“Nora Malloy’s,” she said, and licked frosting from her fingers.

“I’M KIND OF SCARED.” I sat up on the twin bed closest to the window—the one that had pretty much become mine in the last few years, since my parents’ official divorce—and pulled up the leg of my jeans to show my bruise. “Nora did this in public. Who knows what she’s capable of on her own property.”

“Oh, please. There’s nothing she can do to us,” Jules said, one arm folded over her bare stomach as she stood in front of her closet in her underwear and bra, considering what to wear. I heard her brother, Zack, come up the stairs and turn on the TV in the den. I loved being at Jules’s house. It was big but not too big, buzzed with a mild, pleasant chaos, and smelled faintly like her mom’s perfume. And Jules’s room was my favorite. It had dark wooden floors and big windows with white, floaty curtains. It was painted a deep but calming blue. Jules called the color “Nantucket blue” because she said it was the color of the ocean on a clear day in Nantucket.

“Besides, it’s so clear that Jay likes you,” she said, rifling through her closet. I flopped back on the bed and grinned. I drummed my fingers on the pale-yellow coverlet as I smiled wildly.

“Do you think I’ll lose my virginity to Jay?” I asked, biting my lip to hide my smile, not wanting to jinx anything. Jules and I were both virgins, although she’d come very close last summer with some boarding-school guy.

“It’s possible,” Jules said. “But don’t do it right away.”

“Oh my god, no. Six-month rule,” I said. Jules and I decided that six months was the perfect amount of time to go out with a guy before sex. With that kind of time, you would know you weren’t being used. I lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

“I just thought of something bad,” I said. “What if Jay turns out like his brother?” Jay has an older brother who was just like him in high school: gorgeous, popular, athletic, but he quit college, got arrested for drunk driving, and now lives at home and works at the bagel shop. And he can’t drive, so I always see him walking places with big circles under his eyes. I could picture him so clearly. “He’s such a loser.”

“Cricket,” Jules said. “That’s mean.” But she was smiling. This was the thing about Jules. I could always say what I was really thinking to her and she wouldn’t stop liking me. Actually, I got the feeling when I said stuff like this, stuff you can think but really shouldn’t say, it made her like me more.

“Sorry, but it’s true,” I said. “He looks sad all the time. I feel bad going into the Bagel Place.”

“I know what you mean. I hate it when he’s working there. I can’t just be myself when I order a bagel.”

“I hope it doesn’t run in the family, because I think Jay and I should get married someday. I mean, after we’ve both been to college.”

“Can I be your maid of honor?”

“Of course.” I sighed. “I can’t believe I won’t see him again for like, months!” He was leaving for Nantucket soon. So was Jules. Everyone was going somewhere for the summer. The Cape. Martha’s Vineyard. Arti was going to an arts program in Innsbruck, Austria. Even Nora Malloy was going on an Outward Bound trip. She was going to scale Mount Rainier (and probably a few of her fellow mountaineers).

“You never know what can happen,” Jules said, considering a pair of white jeans.

I wasn’t looking forward to spending another summer in Providence babysitting Andrew King. I’d be setting up the baby pool in the King’s driveway while everyone else was somewhere fabulous. But my family just didn’t have enough money for a summer place or a European vacation. I could just see myself filling up that damn plastic pool with the hose in the heat of the midday and then stepping on its edge to let it drain when the streetlights came on.

The sound of a trumpet blasted into the room through the speaker in the ceiling.

“Guess my mom’s home,” Jules said. Nina had just discovered a South African jazz musician after she’d read about him in The New Yorker, and was listening to his new album on repeat like a teenager to the latest pop star, blasting it through the house’s surround-sound system. We broke into the dance we’d made up to this now very familiar tune. Jules air-trumpeted and I twirled around her.

Jules and Zack made fun of Nina for her obsessions, but I loved how she’d focus on something—a poet or a film director or even a color, a particular shade of orange—then leave some corner of their house changed by her discovery: an oversized book of Mexican art in the front hall marked with neon Post-its, a William Carlos Williams quote stenciled in the downstairs bathroom, a vintage John Coltrane poster in the den, a yellow ceramic bowl filled with apricots on the dining room table.

Just last week she’d asked me to read aloud to her from a Jonathan Franzen book she couldn’t put down while she cooked dinner. I was sitting cross-legged on their kitchen counter. “What would I do without you, Cricket?” Nina said when I finished a chapter. She was chopping onions. “No one else in this house will read to me.”

Mr. Clayton was at work. Zack was studying for an exam. Jules was watching Splash in the den. She’s obsessed with ’80s movies.

“I love this guy,” I said, flipping the book over to look at the author photo. “I love how he described the real estate lady in her jeans. And the way he talked about her haircut!”

Nina blinked away onion tears and looked at the author photo. “I bet he looks pretty excellent in jeans.” She sipped her wine, then put the glass down and crushed some garlic. “Okay, keep going.”

I smiled and turned the page.

I was pliéing around a barely dressed Jules to the flute solo in the South African jazz song when Zack opened the door. “Hey, Mom’s in her dashiki.” He strode in the room but stopped at the sight of Jules in her bra and underwear. “What the hell are you two doing? Jesus! Why didn’t you warn me?”

He ran out.

“You should knock,” Jules called after him, howling with laughter.

“I didn’t know you were in your freaking lingerie. You’ve scarred me for life,” he yelled from the hallway.

“At least she wasn’t wearing a thong,” I said, leaving Jules to get dressed, and shutting the door behind me.

“That doesn’t make me feel better,” he said, retreating into the den. I followed him. He sat on the sofa, his head in his hand. “In fact, great. Thanks for the image.”

“What you saw was no different than a bathing suit.”



    "In this novel about finding oneself and following your heart, Howland creates a character that readers will be cheering for from beginning to end."—VOYA

On Sale
Apr 25, 2017
Page Count
608 pages

Leila Howland

About the Author

A graduate of Georgetown University, Leila Howland spent five years acting in New York in everything from an MTV public service announcement for safe sex to a John Guare play at Lincoln Center, and was a proud company member of the award-winning Flea Theater in Tribeca. Currently, she is a school librarian in Los Angeles, where she lives with her family.

Learn more about this author