Just For The Summer Summary, Characters and Themes

“Just For The Summer” is a contemporary romance novel by Abby Jimenez. It revolves around two individuals, Emma and Justin, who decide to engage in a fake relationship to break their respective dating curses.

The story is set in Minnesota, where Emma, a traveling nurse, takes on an assignment. She and her best friend see the opportunity to date Justin, and they rent a cottage on Lake Minnetonka. It’s supposed to be a summer fling, but things get complicated when Emma’s toxic mother arrives and Justin becomes the guardian of his three siblings.


Emma, a travel nurse, and Justin, a software engineer, are both cursed with their exes finding true love immediately after breaking up. 

Determined to break the curse, they decide to temporarily date each other. Emma relocates to Minneapolis, Justin’s hometown, and they embark on a summer fling.

Their lives become intertwined as Emma confronts her traumatic childhood and abusive mother, Amber, while Justin takes custody of his three younger siblings due to his mother’s imprisonment. 

Despite their contrasting lifestyles—Emma’s nomadic nature and Justin’s desire for stability—they grow closer and develop deep feelings for each other.

Amber’s arrival in Minneapolis disrupts their newfound happiness as she attempts to manipulate Emma and becomes infatuated with Emma’s landlord. 

Emma’s best friend, Maddy, grows increasingly wary of Amber’s intentions and influence on Emma. 

Meanwhile, Emma struggles with her fear of commitment and the idea of settling down, while Justin yearns for a stable relationship and family life.

Their relationship faces further challenges when Amber’s erratic behavior escalates, causing emotional distress for Emma and jeopardizing her relationship with Justin. 

Emma discovers a hidden family secret through a DNA test—she has a half-brother and extended family that Amber concealed from her. 

This revelation leads to a confrontation with Amber, during which Emma cuts ties with her mother.

Devastated by the events, Emma retreats into herself and flees the city without informing Justin or Maddy. 

However, Maddy tracks her down and encourages her to face her trauma instead of running away. 

Emma returns to Minneapolis and ends her relationship with Justin, recognizing that she needs to address her emotional baggage before committing to a stable relationship.

Over the next six months, Emma works as a nurse in Wakan, Minnesota, where she connects with her newfound family and undergoes therapy for complex PTSD. 

Through therapy, she learns to manage her trauma and develop healthy coping mechanisms. 

Finally, feeling ready to embrace love and commitment, Emma returns to Minneapolis and declares her love for Justin.

Reunited with Justin and his siblings, Emma begins a new chapter in her life, overcoming her past trauma and embracing a future filled with love and stability. 

Two years later, Justin and Emma get engaged, solidifying their commitment to each other and their shared journey toward healing and happiness.

Just For The Summer Summary



Emma, the protagonist and narrator of the story, is a complex character shaped by her traumatic childhood. 

Her experiences with neglect and abandonment have instilled in her a deep-seated fear of commitment and a nomadic lifestyle as a travel nurse. 

While she is compassionate and empathetic towards others, she struggles to form lasting emotional connections and often retreats into her “smallness” as a coping mechanism for stress. 

Throughout the novel, Emma grapples with her conflicting desires for love and stability versus her fear of being hurt or abandoned again. 

Her journey towards healing and overcoming her trauma is central to the story’s arc.


Justin is presented as a responsible and caring individual who is thrust into the role of a guardian for his siblings after his mother’s legal troubles. 

He is patient, understanding, and provides a stable presence in Emma’s chaotic life. 

Justin’s unwavering love and support for his family, as well as his growing affection for Emma, challenge her perceptions of relationships and commitment. 

His character serves as a grounding force for Emma and a catalyst for her personal growth.


Maddy, Emma’s best friend and foster sister, is a fierce and loyal companion who acts as a protective shield for Emma. 

Having grown up together in foster care, they share a deep bond and understanding. Maddy is often the voice of reason and offers unwavering support to Emma, even when she disagrees with her choices. 

Her character provides a sense of stability and unconditional love for Emma, aiding her in navigating the complexities of relationships and personal trauma.


Amber, Emma’s mother, is a deeply flawed and toxic character. Her neglectful and manipulative behavior during Emma’s childhood has left lasting scars on her daughter. 

Throughout the novel, Amber’s actions are erratic and self-centered, causing pain and disruption in Emma’s life. 

While Emma initially yearns for her mother’s love and approval, she eventually realizes the detrimental impact Amber has on her well-being and makes the difficult decision to sever ties.

The Grant Family

The Grant family, whom Emma discovers through her DNA test, offers a stark contrast to her experiences with Amber. 

They are warm, welcoming, and provide the unconditional love and acceptance that Emma has longed for. 

Their presence in her life serves as a healing balm and helps her to redefine her understanding of family and belonging.


The Devastating Impact of Childhood Neglect and Trauma

Jimenez illustrates the profound and lasting impact of childhood neglect and trauma through Emma’s character. 

Emma’s mother, Amber, neglected her basic needs and emotional well-being, leaving Emma to fend for herself at a young age. This neglect instilled in Emma a deep-seated fear of abandonment and a strong aversion to permanence. 

As an adult, Emma’s trauma manifests as a flight response to stress, causing her to retreat to a metaphorical island where she shuts out the world. It also hinders her ability to form lasting relationships, as she fears being hurt or abandoned again. 

Jimenez effectively portrays the complexities of Emma’s trauma, highlighting the challenges she faces in overcoming her past and building a healthy, stable life.

The Healing Power of Love and Found Family

Despite the emotional scars from her childhood, Emma finds solace and healing through the love and support of her found family. 

Maddy, her best friend and foster sister, becomes a constant source of encouragement and understanding, providing a safe space for Emma to express her vulnerabilities. 

Justin and his siblings also offer Emma unconditional love and acceptance, helping her confront her fears and embrace the possibility of a permanent connection. 

Through these relationships, Emma learns to trust again, heal her emotional wounds, and ultimately find the courage to build a life filled with love and stability.

The Challenges and Rewards of Unconventional Family Structures

“Just for the Summer” explores the complexities and rewards of unconventional family structures. 

Justin, suddenly thrust into the role of guardian for his three younger siblings, navigates the challenges of single parenthood with love and determination. He creates a stable and nurturing environment for his siblings, demonstrating the power of resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity.

The novel also emphasizes the importance of chosen family, as Emma becomes an integral part of Justin’s household, providing emotional support and love for his siblings. 

Through these unconventional family dynamics, Jimenez showcases the diverse ways in which love and connection can flourish, challenging traditional notions of family and highlighting the strength found in unity.

The Importance of Self-Love and Forgiveness

The novel emphasizes the significance of self-love and forgiveness in personal growth and healing. Emma’s journey towards self-acceptance and forgiveness is a central theme in the story. 

Initially, Emma blames herself for her mother’s neglect and struggles to forgive Amber for the pain she caused. 

However, through therapy and the support of her loved ones, Emma learns to let go of self-blame and acknowledge her own worthiness of love and happiness. 

By forgiving her mother, albeit from a distance, Emma frees herself from the shackles of resentment and opens herself up to the possibility of a fulfilling future.