Nora Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BYR
Publication Date: May 10, 2011
Source: S&S Galley Grab
The Summer Before Boys is a coming of age story set against the backdrop of the war in Iraq. Julia's mom has been in Iraq for the past nine and a half months. Because of this and her father's job, Julia is spending the summer with her sister, brother-in-law, and niece, Eliza. Julia and Eliza are the same age and best friends - inseparable. They spend most of their time at the resort where Eliza's father works wandering the hiking trails, trying to sneak into tea, playing Lester and Lynette, and getting ice cream at the gift shop. At least they do until Julia starts to notice Michael. What happens to a friendship when one person is ready to grow up, but the other isn't?
The Summer Before Boys is a very timely book; a good number of people are dealing with the same anxieties and fears associated with having a family member deployed to Iraq as Julia. She's worried that her mother's deployment will be extended, that something will happen to her or that she'll come back different. To help her deal with this, Julia has collected facts about women in war, which are included through out the book. I found these pieces of information interesting and thought that they added another layer to the story that allowed the reader to get to know Julia.
There is a back and forth, almost like you can see Julia's thought process, type of narration. Julia is telling about the current summer, but then mentions something that happened the year before in school or about the days leading up to her mother leaving. Describing it makes it seem weird, but it really worked in the framework of the story because you get to see the different pieces that lead to the summer and what happens between Julia and Eliza.
Throughout the book, Ms. Baskin does a great job balancing the two major arcs in the story and it's interesting how they come together. The way she handles that awkward age when some kids are ready to grow up and others are happy still living in their own make believe world is what made The Summer Before Boys a great read for me. But then again, I've lived through that time in my own life and can remember it with mostly fond memories. I'm wondering if girls that are the same age as Julia and Eliza will be able to relate to them. I'm hoping they can and if they do, they will be rewarded with a wonderful read.
I can see The Summer Before Boys being a great book for readers who like more quiet or introspective books.