Summer of Brave

Albert Whitman. Mar. 2021. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807576601.
Gr 5-8–Lilla and her friends Vivi and Knox make a fun Summer Wish every year. This year, however, Vivi’s wish for the summer is for Knox and Lilla to be brave. More specifically, she wishes that Lilla would tell the truth, even when it makes people unhappy. Lilla has been hiding her true feelings for too long now, and the thought of opening up to her parents about her reactions to their divorce and living arrangement, their dreams for her in high school, and even to her own best friends is scary. This summer between seventh and eighth grade is a big turning point for her, though, and she needs to make her needs known before others make decisions for her that will make her unhappy. Lilla and her friends live in a unique setting with a university campus as their playground (based on the author’s own upbringing), and while the novel starts out as a friendship and family story, it takes a strong turn midway through to address street harassment and standing up to people who make work and other situations feel scarier than they should. This story line adds depth and allows Lilla to shine through and grow as a character while providing an excellent example for middle grade readers of how to speak up when that is the scariest thing imaginable. This book would pair nicely with Barbara Dee’s Maybe He Just Likes You—both make the topic of sexual harassment accessible and empowering for middle schoolers.
VERDICT A first purchase for middle grade collections as well as book clubs for this age range.

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