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Monday, February 22, 2016

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

This is a great YA novel about the consequences of choices. It very much reminds me of the movie "Sliding Doors" - where an instant's hesitation makes for a world of change, and both outcomes are depicted.

Summer is a (young acting) sixteen year old girl who lives with her mother in NY state - NOT in NYC, as she mentions several times. Her parents are divorced, and her father is a somewhat famous painter who lives in Paris, but summers in Provence. Her dad has been pretty flaky since he left five years ago, but he asks her to join him for the summer in Provence. Her mother is reluctant, for reasons that Summer can't quite understand.

She has a best friend, Ruby, and an unrequited crush at home. She has no idea what will await her in France. As she is set to leave, she and her mother argue. Ruby takes her to the airport, but Summer is a little flaky herself, and very superstitious, and isn't sure she should go. Her phone is about to die and she's the last to board the flight. Just as she approaches the jetway, her phone rings...

The book alternates between two different "universes" jumping from what happens when she doesn't answer the unknown caller ID and gets on the plane to the other side where she does answer the phone and winds up not going to France. The jumping is handled very well - it's not every other chapter. The author does a nice job of maintaining a flow of the one side, then taking natural breaks to flip us to the other.

Neither outcome is perfect. I found it a little hard to like Summer in the opening part - she is just a little too wishy-washy for my taste in heroine. Of course, that is perhaps necessary to set up the premise. In France, things are far from perfect, but Summer learns to handle herself pretty darn well through adversity. In NY, it takes a little longer for her to mature, and there is more angst around her friendship with Ruby, but she does also ultimately come into her own there as well. The family drama surrounding her father's absence occurs in both places, but obviously is more apparent in the France half. Her relationship with Ruby is more highlighted in the NY portion. I don't want to give any spoilers, but the ending was satisfying and I very much enjoyed the book.

The voices are clear and authentic. The structure is handled well. I have not read any previous works from this author, but I'll be looking her up. Highly recommended for middle school and up. (No sex, drugs, drinking, etc., but the family topics might not interest readers younger than 6th-7th grade.)

I received this as an advanced reader copy in exchange for a review from The book will be published on April 26, 2016.
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