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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A few Greek and Spanish words with translation. Provides insight into the geography, culture, and history of Portland, Oregon. The author's note lists the indigenous tribes that originally inhabited the Portland area and mentions a few books, resources, and activities that have inspired her.
Not everything has a reason, a solution, or needs to be fixed just because it's outside your understanding. Home is where your people are. To experience new things in your life, you have to let go of some old things; mourning those losses is a necessary part of making room for the new. You have to give the people you love time and space to become their true selves, and help them with their journey any way you can.
Positive Role Models
Iph and her family are positive representations of brown-skinned, dark-haired people living in an overwhelmingly White city. One set of grandparents is from Greece, and their mother is from Mexico. Their mother has some regrets about not raising them in a more diverse environment, but the family keeps a positive awareness of race, sexuality, and many other social issues. They also model a very close-knit family. Iph's brother Orr has sensitivity issues that seem like autism, and the family models positive ways to help and support him. His behavior, the way his mind works, and difficulty navigating the world around him are described, but no diagnosis or named condition is mentioned. Most other characters are White. Lots of positive representations of a range of sexual and gender identities, including a nonbinary character.
Violence & Scariness
A kidnapping with binding hands and feet, putting a dark hood over the victim's head, and rough treatment. Verbal abuse, bullying, and shaving someone's head while they're unconscious at a boot-camp type of facility for teens. A broken hand from punching a flasher in the face. A fight with punching, spitting, and pushing. A dog is kicked across a room. A character's dream includes a baby playing with a severed finger. Sex workers keep a list of clients who are violent that mentions physical abuse, rape, and assault.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few kisses between different gender combinations, including a romance with a nonbinary character. Occasional talk about sex and sexuality like having a vibrator, showing how to use a condom, and stressing that they're needed for oral sex, getting erections, dildos, touching yourself, wondering if someone dates boys or girls, etc. A positive character is a stripper who advocates for sex workers' rights.
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"F--king," "s--t," "d--khead," "d--k" (body part), "boobs," "a--wipe," and "queef."
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Products & Purchases
Occasional food, beverage, retail outlets, and consumer products establish character.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens occasionally drink to excess with no consequences mentioned. A couple of characters volunteer for a needle-exchange program and deliver clean supplies for cooking and shooting heroin to addicts who are homebound. Several characters smoke cigarettes regularly, one smokes cloves. A character mentions pilfering sleeping pills and taking unspecified medicine prescribed by a psychiatrist. Mention of smoking weed in the past and the smell of pot. A few responsible uses of prescribed medication.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Summer in the City of Roses is a coming-of-age story with strong elements of magical realism that takes place in Portland, Oregon, in the 1990s. Violence includes descriptions of a kidnapping, abuse suffered at a boot-camp type of facility for teens, a couple of fights with punching, a dog being kicked, and a disturbing image from a dream. Sexy stuff is a few kisses, romantic dynamics between varied gender combinations, and mature talk about lots of different aspects of human sexuality. Teens occasionally drink to excess, several characters smoke, and an extensive passage describes delivering clean supplies to a homebound couple addicted to heroin. Strong language isn't frequent but includes "f--king," "s--t," and "d--khead."
Is It Any Good?
Strong, often lyrical writing lifts this moving and thought-provoking coming-of-age story above the ordinary. Summer in the City of Roses combines lots of different elements like myth, fairy tale, magical realism, history, family, and more, without ever losing its sense of place, or sense of humor. Iph and Orr are easy to understand and empathize with, and teens will relate to the ways they cope, or try to cope, with big changes in their lives. The diverse range of characters they meet, and even their own parents, are intriguing and colorful. The well-structured story of their adventures keeps the pages turning.
Some readers not familiar with magical realism may not enjoy the pretty abrupt way this element is introduced, when the story, which was firmly grounded in reality, suddenly asks readers to suspend their disbelief. But by then, most readers will be heavily invested in the characters thanks to author Michelle Ruiz Keil's strong, at times almost hypnotic, writing, and they'll want to see it through to the satisfying ending.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.