The Summer I Read Dana Reinhardt’s NEW Book
Today, we’re so happy to share a guest post from our group’s sales associate, Bobbie. She has written a really moving review of our summer Rep Pick, The Summer I Learned to Fly by acclaimed author Dana Reinhardt. If you haven’t read one of Dana’s books, you are missing out; they are beautifully written contemporary young adult novels. Her latest YA book, The Things a Brother Knows, will be out in paperback this September. The Summer I Learned to Fly is a little younger, but equally compelling.
It’s the summer before 8th grade for Drew Robin Solo (or “Birdie”) and time seems to be dragging on. She is a bit of a loner, always hanging out in her mother’s gourmet cheese shop with its staff rather than anybody her own age. This is the summer she acquires a pet rat, an inspiring ‘Book of lists’ that belonged to her dead father, and a hopeless crush on Nick, the cute, surfer bum who works behind her mom’s counter. She’s content with the friendships she’s found in the pseudo-family at the cheese shop, but wishes for the ability to have a true friendship with someone her own age.
This is an important summer for Birdie, but she doesn’t realize it until one night after closing time, when she meets a strange boy named Emmett Crane in the alley behind the shop and in so doing finds her first real friend. Together, they spend a fun and magical summer. When Emmett confides a major secret to Birdie, she must decide if she’s truly ready for a friendship that will challenge her to grow up and spread her wings to fly.
The summer I read this new, charming, and touching middle grade novel by Dana Reinhardt—at the beginning of this summer as it were — I felt a true kinship to the story’s main character. Like Birdie, I was going through a copious amount of change, making new friends, leaving others behind, trying to find my place in a new environment. And reading this book allowed me to go back to other moments in my life when I was going through similar transitions, like that pivotal summer before your 13th year, when anything new seems absolutely extraordinary. It also reminded me that you will always make it through these transitions, if you just find the courage to take the leap.
The passage below sticks out to me as one that cemented my connection to Birdie:
It’s not like I didn’t have friends. I did. It’s just that I preferred the company of Swoozie and Nick to pretty much anybody else on the planet.
I know how that sounds, like I was one of those kids who didn’t know how to talk to her peers. Whose jokes fell flat. Who never wore the right clothes or listened to the right music. But I’d always had friends.
I can prove it:
She then goes on to list a bunch of different people she played with during her childhood thus far (though some she barely remembers many of them) making every effort to prove a sense of normalcy. As a girl who listened to Neil Young when I was in 7th grade instead of Britney Spears and wore sweat shirts with coyotes on them until high school instead of the latest fashions at the mall, I knew exactly what she was doing in this passage. In listing these people, what she ended up proving is that they were not really friends at all, but merely people with whom to pass the time. This provides the foundation for a story about a true friendship, the one she finds in Emmett. For me, it made the novel extra genuine and extra special. In fact, I found it very funny and truly endearing because I think we’ve all created this list in our minds at one time or another. Eventually, I found people that loved Neil Young too, just as Birdie found someone who loved her pet rat.
This book, fabulously paced and beautifully crafted made me laugh, made my heart beat. It was stay in your chair till the very end, sneak a peek at the last page good. And if I can recommend anything for the summer, it’s to lounge in a chair with this wonderful book, and let it cheer you up like your own special friend.