Middle School Monday: Summerlost Review by Librarian Alison Ching!
A little while ago, I wrote about how important it is for us as school librarians to advertise [and advocate for] our literacy roots. As part of shouting out our literature bonafides, I invited you all to think of a book you might like to write about so it could be featured on Middle School Monday.
I’m so excited to give a signal boost to this review from Alison Ching, the librarian at Downing Middle School in Flower Mound, Texas. Follow her at @arclibrarian. Thank you Alison for highlighting this title for us!
When Julie put out the call for reviews for “under the radar” books, I selected Ally Condie’s Summerlost right away, but then the joke was on me, because almost immediately, it appeared in the opening round of the Goodreads Choice Awards in the Best Middle Grade and Children’s category. I could be forgiven for thinking there was a limited cohort of people singing its praises, however; it had been well-reviewed but hadn’t attracted a lot of the attention of more “It” books. If it weren’t for the beautiful cover and the fact that I was already a fan of Condie’s YA Matched series, I would likely have given it a pass altogether. I’m so glad I didn’t do that.
Summerlost is the story of Cedar Lee, who is struggling to heal after a great loss, and her friendship with Leo, a budding entrepreneur who draws her out of her shell and into the local Summerlost theater festival. The book is a gentle, beautiful meditation on grief—both Cedar’s, for her father and brother who have died, and Leo’s, for his father who is still with him but feels very far away—yet it succeeds by integrating that grief into a larger tapestry of experience rather than placing it on a pedestal.
Leo and Cedar are sensitive, multifaceted characters, but they are not precocious sages; rather they have an authentically tween tendency to go barreling into schemes which seem like utter genius to them in the moment, but which a canny reader can tell are doomed from the start. The pleasure for that reader comes from weathering these disappointments and hard lessons with the characters and then standing with them in their quiet victories.
This book has a somewhat timeless feel, partly because there are extremely limited mentions of technology and pop culture that would anchor it in a particular era, but also because it is a classic coming of age story, in the vain of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, with all of the attendant highs and lows. If you have a patron looking for an “all the feels” sort of book, hand them this one with confidence.
I love this review! [“they have an authentically tween tendency to go barreling into schemes which seem like utter genius to them in the moment”—that’s perfection! :)]
We all need those “all the feels” sorts of books in our repertoire. Thank you so much for sharing, Alison!
I hope you have a great week! Reach out to me at @BespokeLib if you’re interested in writing a review!
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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