March 18, 2018

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Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno | SLJ Review

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redstarLENO, Katrina. Summer of Salt. 272p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062493620.

Gr 8 Up –The Fernweh family has lived on the island of By-the-Sea—where the two smells you can always be sure of are “salt and magic”—for generations. Almost 18-year-old twins Georgina and Mary are the latest in a long line of Fernweh women with magical gifts ranging from teleportation to potion-making (the sisters’ mother Penelope can brew a mean hangover cure). Every summer, By-the-Sea also hosts 300-year-old Annabella, an Eastern Seaborn Flicker bird who may be a Fernweh herself, and the influx of tourists who come to see her. But when Annabella is found violently murdered, suddenly the island doesn’t seem so magical, and more than one dark secret must be uncovered. A magical realist YA book is still a relatively rare sight, and Leno expertly crafts this example of the genre with atmospheric prose and subtle feminism. The real heart of the novel is the exceptionally well-written female characters and relationships. Leno’s way of writing Georgina’s blossoming first love with island visitor Prue Lowry is so sweet and purely devoid of the “problem novel” overtones that accompany so many LGBTQ+ relationships in fiction. Her examination of the trauma of sexual assault and the “imperfect victim” is sophisticated and complex. VERDICT A necessary novel that is, at the same time, so enjoyable to read that teens will have to fight the urge to crawl into the pages. Buy multiple copies.–Ann Santori, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

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