Happy Monday, guys!
This week, we're reviewing Summerlost by Ally Condie.
I've been looking forward to Ally's foray into middle grade fiction since the book was announced, and am happy to say it doesn't disappoint!
Read on for our thoughts about this whimsical story about family, summer and grief, and to win a copy! :)
Expected publication: March 29th 2016 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Format read: ARC via pubisher
It’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.
Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.
So when I heard that Ally was making a foray into middle grade fiction - and contemporary fiction, at that! - I was intrigued. Condie introduces us to twelve-year-old Cedar and her family, who are visiting Iron Creek. It's been a year since Cedar's father and other brother Ben were killed, and Cedar and her family are still slowly recovering.
However, a friendship with an unusual boy named Leo, a job at a summer festival, and even hints of a mystery, help Cedar begin to see the world again with new and different eyes...
There are many things to like about Summerlost, but what captured my heart first and foremost, is the fact that this is very clearly a study in grief. Though it's never overtly discussed - as mentioned in the Kirkus review - Condie doesn't hesitate to show just how the lingering feelings of grief and loss have continued to impact Cedar and her family.
Each and every move at the beginning of the novel is a reminder of what Cedar has lost, including the move to Iron Creek in the first place. She's being asked to make choices and decisions that wouldn't have happened if her father and brother were still alive, and consequently, it's almost a relief when we see Cedar connect with Leo, and form a firm friendship.
Their friendship is equally unusual as it is comforting, and readers will likely be bemused by Cedar and Leo's ingenuity when it comes to exploring some of the tales associated with the region, and their money-making efforts. It's a firm reminder that life will keep going even after loss, and readers will likely feel pleased that Leo and Cedar's friendship is helping her to move on.
Though there is no great revelatory moment, this wonderful story about recovery, growing up and moving on, will likely capture the imagination of readers both young and old.
Bottom line: Summerlost is a candid, genuine look at grief through the eyes of its young protagonist, and the steps and missteps that Cedar will take, as she works her way through a full recovery. With the help of friends, family and an unusual setting, this is a story that will stay with readers.
Winner picked on 03/15/2016!
About the author:
Ally Condie is the author of the critically acclaimed Matched trilogy, a #1 New York Times and international bestseller. The series has been published in more than 30 languages.
A former English teacher, Ally lives with her husband and four children outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, writing, running, and listening to her husband play guitar.