Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Summerlost is Ally Condie's latest novel (out today) and her first foray into middle grade fiction. It has a very different feel than her Matched series or Atlantia. Summerlost is realistic fiction and is a quiet and contemplative read that tells of friendship and of dealing with loss in a way that is relatable and real.
Cedar Lee is twelve years old and this summer is her first living in Iron Creek - a small community renowned for its Shakespeare festival. It is also the first summer since her Dad and younger brother, Ben, were killed in a car accident. Now, it is just her mother, her eight-year-old brother Miles, and her. Cedar's interest is peeked when she sees a boy about her age, Leo, bike by in an English period costume. Cedar follows him and gets a job working the concessions with him at the Summerlost festival.
What follows is a sweet friendship and a summer filled with secret tours of important places in the life of Lisette Chamberlain, the long-dead and beloved local turned Hollywood star. Cedar puzzles over the black birds flying outside her window and the mysterious items that appear on her windowsill -- items that her deceased brother would have loved. Cedar and Miles also develop an obsession with a bizarre storyline in a tv soap opera.
What I loved about this story is how real, and perfect for a middle grade audience, Cedar's reckoning with grief felt. Throughout her everyday life, little things reminded her of stories and times with her dad or Ben, but the story manages to avoid feeling overly heavy. I love Kirkus Review's summation: "Honest, lovely and sad."
If you are interested in reading it, there is a giveaway you can enter HERE to win copies of Summerlost, as well as Matched and Atlantia.
After reading Summerlost, I found myself wanting to attend the Utah Shakespearean Festival, which served as the inspiration for the Summerlost festival. Despite growing up in Utah, I've never made it to Cedar City to attend the festival. It runs in the summer from late June until early September and appears to have a great line-up this year. Click HERE for the website.
And last of all, I have included a letter from Ally Condie below that gives a little more insight into her writing of the book:
I think most of us have had our hearts broken. Sometimes we can see it coming, and sometimes it
comes down with the unexpected force of a sudden gale of wind or a rising of waters that we thought
were still and safe. Loss is universal to human experience, but the way we each feel and recover is one of the most personal things we do.
In Summerlost, Cedar is dealing with the loss of her father and younger brother. And my intent was to show how hard their deaths are for her. But this is also a book about the healing power of friendship. Most of us have been broken-hearted; I hope that most of us have also discovered the miracle of friendships that were just what we needed. Cedar and Leo’s friendship is based on someone I met when I was twelve. Like Leo, my friend was fun and liked to enlist me in crazy adventures (although we never gave a secret guided tour of our town the way they do in Summerlost). And, like Leo, he thought I was wonderful and of worth at a time when I needed it most.
SUMMERLOST is my attempt to pay tribute both to the pain we feel and the friendships that save us. Thank you so much for supporting this book, and for your willingness to give Cedar’s story a try. I hope it makes you think of a wonderful friend of your own, whether that is someone you met in the pages of a favorite book or outside, in the world where it is often hard and beautiful to live.
Best wishes and happy reading always,