young adult book reviews & more

The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin

The Summer Before BoysJulia and Eliza are best friends. Technically, Julia is Eliza’s aunt, but since they’re practically the same age, they just tell everyone that they’re cousins. This summer, Julia’s mother is serving in the National Guard and her father is too busy with his job, so Julia gets to stay with her Aunt (technically sister) and Eliza. And at first it’s great. Spending time with Eliza at the resort just up the hill is the perfect way to distract Julia from her worries about her mother’s safety. And it’s fun, all the laughing and hiking and make-believe. But then everything changes with boys. Neither girl is prepared for what a single boy will do to their friendship, but in finding out, they’ll discover the things that really matter most.

The Summer Before Boys is a sweet and poignant middle grade coming of age novel. Lately, I haven’t found myself reading much middle grade, partly because it’s been a little while since I considered myself part of that age group, but The Summer Before Boys is the perfect example of why I shouldn’t neglect middle grade in my reading list. For me, the only thing that defined this novel as middle grade was the age and maturity of protagonist Julia. As a preteen, she’s just beginning to discover the novelty of boys, and she doesn’t quite know how to manage boys, friends, and family. Older teens may find Julia’s youngness a little difficult to personally relate to, but I found her character to be completely endearing. I could empathize with her struggles and her feeling that no one really understood. But what truly elevated this novel above middle grade status for me was Baskin’s writing. The sophistication in the way she tells Julia’s story is what makes this novel appropriate for older readers. Julia’s story is interspersed with flashbacks as well as facts and anecdotes about women in US military history. These little asides added so much depth to Julia’s character and made her much easier to understand. I was truly moved by this story, and I think that The Summer Before Boys has the power to affect all readers as well.

The Summer Before Boys will be enjoyed by fans of The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer and The Darlings Are Forever by Melissa Kantor.

Rating: 4.25

Review copy from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

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Anonymous said...

I really like the concept for this one. I don't read many middle-grade novels but I think I definitely should. :)

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