Thursday, August 16, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #228: All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Bina is thirteen; it's the last day of seventh grade in Los Angeles. And she's expecting this summer to be like the last few, to spend it running up the score on the Fun Index with her best friend Austin (aka the boy next door) -- doing things like swimming in the local pool, petting random neighborhood cats, selling lemonade, and finding sidewalk change.

But Austin thinks that's pretty juvenile behavior for thirteen-year-olds to begin with -- and he just found out he's gotten into a super-competitive soccer camp. He leaves in a week, and will be gone for a month -- half the summer.

Bina is annoyed: this isn't how she expected her summer to go. And people keep talking about how she's growing up, but she wants to stay the same person.

All Summer Long is how she threads that needle. How she spends her time without Austin, how she stays herself but now thirteen, how she grows up as Bina. And how she learns some things, in a low-key way, about the kinds of things Bina cares about and is good at -- which aren't the same as those for Austin, or her parents, or anyone else.

(The cover gives you a good idea of what one of them is.)

It's lovely to find a realistic book about thirteen-year-olds that isn't filled with drama -- since thirteen-year-olds themselves usually are. Instead, All Summer Long is quieter and more amiable, either five years too young or too old for its stated age. Bina might not be entirely happy with where she is right now, and might not be thrilled at having to grow and change, but she's a sensible person at her core: she's going to be all right, she's going to turn into a great, interesting person.

(Maybe she already is one? But it's so rare for anyone thirteen to be really distinctive or particular.)

This is a graphic novel for young readers -- given the rules of publishing, mostly for middle-schoolers just hitting thirteen themselves or looking forward to it in the near future. But Hope Larson, though telling us this story through Bina's eyes, is herself a bit older than thirteen, and can give us a better perspective -- and, along the way, make it an engaging and positive story for those of us who are also a little older than thirteen.

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