Monday, October 24, 2016

Condie's Middle Grade Debut Tender and Touching

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been a year since the car accident that killed Cedar Lee's father and younger brother.  Still sick with grief, the rest of the family is trying to pick up the pieces.  For Cedar's mother that means moving on.  Literally.  For the rest of the summer, they'll be living in Iron Creek, their mom's childhood hometown in Southern Utah.  Cedar doesn't mind spending time there, it's just that summers aren't the same anymore.  Life isn't the same.  And it's hard to push forward when all she really wants is to go back—back to normal, back to how it was before the accident, back to the same she loved and misses so keenly.

Still, Cedar's interest is piqued when the 12-year-old sees a boy her age in strange, old-fashioned clothing pedal by on a bicycle.  Following him leads her into the magical world of the town's Shakespearean festival.  Cedar is immediately taken in by its enchanting atmosphere, the colorful theater people, and the enthusiasm of her new friend, Leo Bishop.  Soon, she and Leo are embroiled in a profitable—if clandestine—money-making business as well as solving a local mystery.  Cedar's also mystified by the small gifts being left for her on her window sill.  They're exactly the kinds of things her dead brother collected.  Is Ben reaching out to her from beyond the grave?  Or is the heaviness in her heart making her brain see things that aren't really there?  As Cedar tries to fill the hole in her heart with a new town, a new friend, and new adventures, she must come to terms with what she's lost and what she's found in order to figure out just who she's really meant to be.

Summerlost, Ally Condie's first middle grade novel, tells a gentle, but emotionally-rich story about a young girl's struggle to cope after a great tragedy rips her family in two.  It's a heartfelt, atmospheric tale that is both tender and touching.  The festival setting lends it an otherworldly magic that makes the novel uniquely spellbinding.  With humor, mystery, drama, and a whole lot of heart, Summerlost makes for a compelling read with cross-over appeal.  It enchanted me quite thoroughly, thank you very much.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for intense situations and themes (grief, loss, bullying, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

5 comments:

  1. Yay! I'm so glad you liked it. I was so surprised by how much I loved it. I think Ally should keep writing middle grade novels.

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    1. Agreed. She did a beautiful job with SUMMERLOST. I'd love to see what else she's got up her MG sleeve!

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  2. I picked up a copy of this book from the library today. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. I think you'll enjoy it! Iron Creek is based on Cedar City, where Condie grew up :)

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  3. I'm so hesitant to read middlegrade books but so many people keep ranting about this one. I'll have to read it I suppose!

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