Saturday, April 14, 2018

Book Review: All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Isn't it great when you read a book and your biggest complaint is that it was too short? That's also a problem when reading ebooks on my iPad I find--sometimes the end sneaks up on me.

In this graphic novel, we start at the end of 7th grade, and best friends and next door neighbors Bina and Austin are torn. Austin got in to a prestigious soccer camp at the last minute from the wait list, so they won't be spending the summer together as usual. Bina wants her friend to be happy, and he is a great soccer player, but it's still a huge bummer. I love the idea of the summer fun index they've kept in last years where there was a numerical score for the end of the summer and how much fun they'd had. but they opted to not do that this summer. And that's good because they were, after all, not experiencing the same summer at all.

Bina ends up kind of becoming friends with Austin's scary older sister. She checks out a new band. She starts babysitting. She practices guitar. She goes to visit her older brother and his husband to meet their newly adopted baby. Her summer is pretty scattered and solitary but she learns to entertain herself, to find inner resources, and she gets through it all just fine. At the end of the summer, Austin returns, but he's... weird. Turns out a big reason he was often not returning Bina's texts is because they're at the age where it's weird for boys and girls to be friends, and while kids at their school are okay with it because they've been friends for always, it wasn't something he could explain at camp.

I do wish there'd been more content. It didn't feel like the exhausting, neverending kinds of summer you experience at that age, and waiting for Austin to come home from camp didn't seem like long. Basically, there was one real event for each week. So it felt like the summer was about 12 days long. But really, if my only complaint is that I wanted it to be longer, that's a very nice thing!

Bina felt very real and was easily relatable. It was nice that unlike a lot of middle grade books, Bina is pretty comfortable in her skin, even if she's biracial and tall and sometimes wears knee socks with hamburgers all over them. She isn't being shunned or bullied. (She has no one to hang out with because all of her friends are away for the summer, not only Austin.) It's fantastic to have those books, but sometimes it feels like we may have overcorrected and only have those kinds of stories. Anyway, I loved it.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer, so I got it for free.

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