Summer Bird Blue

384p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481487757.
OrangeReviewStarGr 8 Up—A stunning story filled with the healing power of friendship, family, and music. Rumi is spending the summer in Hawaii with her Aunt Ani after a devastating car accident kills her sister Lea. Her mother is stuck in her own world of grief, and Rumi feels lost. She becomes close with two neighbors, a cantankerous Mr. Watanabe, who has suffered loss of his own, and cheerful Kai, the seemingly classic boy next door. Rumi is filled with a rage she can't even express, lashing out at those around her because of her recent loss, mother's desertion, and father's abandonment years ago. Rumi is also struggling to figure out who she is and what she is meant to do, which feels so important now with Lea gone. All Rumi wants to do is fulfill her last promise to her sister and write their final song. This story is filled with skillful and nuanced representation. Rumi is a biracial protagonist trying to understand her sexuality while working through the unstoppable anger and pain that comes with grief. Because of, rather than in spite of, her harsh personality, Rumi will feel authentic and relatable to teens. The language is extraordinary and the use of pidgin gives the characters a clear and real voice, adding to the perfect sense of place.
VERDICT A beautiful, complex, and heartrending tale that belongs in all libraries.

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