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.