Published June 28th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format read: ARC via publisher
As a record number of fireflies light up her town and her life, Penny realizes she may be able to make things right again—and that even if she can’t change the past, she can learn to see the magic where she never could before.
This captivating new novel about first love, second chances, and the power of memory is perfect for fans of Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and Katie Cotugno’s How to Love.
Without getting into the nitty gritty of it, there was an incident involving an author that made me question everything I had ever felt, learned or experienced as a reviewer. I couldn’t read a book without struggling, and being reminded of that incident. Eventually, I put all of my books down and just walked away.
But as the weather has gotten cooler and the nights longer, I’ve found myself wanting to read again. And so it was with a certain sense of kinship and understanding, that I began reading A Season for Fireflies by Rebecca Maizel.
It’s because in many ways, Penny Berne is like me. She begins the book loving theater, but an unpleasant incident jars her enough that she quits acting for different friends and a different life. It’s not until an accident involving a lightning strike and amnesia, which leads Penny to reevaluate the choices she’s made.
While I’ve always liked Rebecca Maizel’s writing, I was actually a little blown away by just how acutely she seemed to understand the emotional ups-and-downs that come with dealing with physical and emotional trauma.
Because though Penny doesn’t get struck with lightning until a few chapters into the book, she’s been dealing with emotional trauma far longer. We see her reluctance to handle that trauma in her decision to run away from her life in theater, and how it’s the lightning strike and subsequent amnesia that gives the unwitting opportunity to face that previous trauma, head on.
Though Penny is obviously relieved when her attempts to rejoin her previous life seem to take hold, Maizel is also careful to emphasize that the life and friends Penny established in the interim, absolutely had its own merits. Maizel emphasizes Kylie’s loyalty and strength, and readers end up absolutely understanding just why Penny sought her friendship out, despite seemingly having nothing in common.
The Kylie/Penny friendship actually really emphasizes the idea that there are times when one’s friendships will evolve as one evolves as a person, and Maizel makes it a point to really highlight just the pieces that both Penny’s old friends and new(er) friends bring to her life. It’s an interesting study on social relationships, and how we each grow, as we age.
Set against a backdrop where mysterious fireflies have invaded the town – which honestly reminded me of this scene:
You’ve written a book that thoughtfully, generously and intelligently explores how people cope with trauma, and what it takes to recover, accept and move on from those traumatic experiences. Penny’s trauma – both emotional, at the beginning of the book and physical, thanks to the lightning strike – are obstacles that are complex and challenging to overcome.
But by taking the chance to understand herself a little better, and risking her heart by opening herself up again, Penny learns how to love herself and move beyond the wounds of the past. It’s a lovely reminder on the importance of growth and self-love, and I can see this resonating with readers of any age. It certainly did with me.
Not much more to say other than, highly recommend. Full stop.
About the author:
Rebecca Maizel hails from Rhode Island, where she teaches literature at her alma mater, the Wheeler School. She is the author of several novels for young adults, including Between Us and the Moon, and she has an MFA in writing for young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Visit her online at www.rebeccamaizel.com.