Today, I'm thrilled to review Bethany Crandell's excellent debut novel, Summer on the Short Bus. This is a book that will make you laugh, cry and make you marvel at the talent of an up-and-coming writer.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Running Press Kids
Format read: ARC via publisher
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Her sentence takes a bearable turn as she discovers the humor and likeability of the campers and grows close to fellow counselors. Now, if she can just convince a certain Zac Efron look-alike with amazing blue eyes that she finally realizes there's life after Gucci, this summer could turn out to be the best she's ever had.
Summer on the Short Bus is a very non-P.C., contemporary YA with a lot of attitude, tons of laughs, and a little life lesson along the way.
(See: Rowell, Rainbow or Smith, Jennifer E.)
So when I heard about Summer on the Short Bus, I was intrigued. I wanted to know just how Bethany Crandell would depict Cricket in such a unique, fish-out-of-water situation.
Luckily for me, Running Press Kids sent me an ARC!
Things that worked:
That being said, this is why I love her. Crandell has created a genuine teenaged girl with all of the problems, concerns (and occasional selfish, politically incorrect thoughts), that I think anyone who has ever been a teenager can understand.
Without giving any spoilers away, Crandell leads Cricket on an emotional arc that is not only thought from from beginning to end, but also brings up a lot of thoughtful questions about growing up, identity, and determination which makes her a joy to get to know and read.
From the moment Crandell takes Cricket from her pampered life and brings her to camp, I fell in love not only with the camp members - a particular camp member's story had me tearing up a little bit, and thinking how lucky I am for things in my life that I don't even think about - but I also fell in love with the legacy of the camp itself. Crandell will definitely make you think about people who run camps like these in real life, and how there are genuinely good people who are determined to make a difference in people's lives.
By the time the end of camp came around, I didn't want to leave. I wanted to spend more time at camp, getting to know its history and its leaders, and you will too.
There's the requisite romance angle - and man, I'm a little jealous of the hotness that Cricket gets to interact with - but it's also a book about how Cricket relates and builds relationships with the old and new people in her life.
Crandell does a fantastic job of showing how love can be unconditional and exist, even if a person isn't aware of it, and how it's always possible to work on, and develop new ties with the people who have always been in your life.
It's an ending that readers will walk away from, feeling like they've read something that will open their eyes a little more to the world around them.
Things to consider:
From my perspective, I think that Bethany actually perfectly depicts the personality that some people develop when they know they're different from others for whatever reason. They end use self-depricating humor - to the point of being almost obscene - to try and make other people feel comfortable in light of those differences.
It's not intended to be offensive or insulting; it's merely a social tactic to put others at ease. I've personally used it for some of my health issues, and I've seen both friends and family use it for a variety of other issues as well.
I would encourage readers to remember this while reading, and possibly consider what it's like to be in a position where you need to act out in a sense, in order to fit in.
(Of course, this is just my own personal interpretation. YMMV and would love to hear what you think.)
I highly recommend this book for fans of contemporary fiction, but especially for readers who are looking for non-traditional heroines. Cricket's definitely non-politically correct, but that's part of the reason why you'll fall for her and root for her, as she begins to figure out how to become a whole new person.
As for me, my contemporary-loving self will definitely be keeping an eye on whatever Bethany writes next. She has more or less earned a fan for life, and I'll be waiting for her next novel with baited breath.