Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Summerlost Book Poster Image
Deeply moving story of grieving girl trying to move on.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

References to Shakespeare's works and a behind-the-scenes look at a summer theater festival. Sensitive portrayal of child with an autism-like disorder and how his condition affects family relationships.

Positive Messages

Emotional wounds take time to heal and can even leave scars. The world is full of uncertainty, and it sometimes require faith and courage to not be paralyzed by that knowledge. Everything comes to an end, but the nature of that ending doesn't have to undo the happiness that came before -- and there are always new beginnings.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cedar is empathetic and patient with her family, recognizing how grief is affecting each one of them. She's openhearted with Leo, appreciating his unique perspective and interests. Leo is warm, trusting, hardworking, and goal-oriented. They both lie to authority figures, who wouldn't approve of the small tour business they open, but the deceit is understandable in the context of the story -- the children feel guilty for lying and accept the consequences. Parents and other adults are well-rounded characters, warm and caring but flawed and limited.


A bully harasses other kids, including with racist mocking; there's little physical threatening. Cedar's father and brother were killed by a drunk driver before the novel begins. The children want to learn more about a mysterious death years ago. Young children are fascinated with a soap opera involving a character being buried alive.


Kissing on soap opera.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to drunk driver who caused fatal accident.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Summerlost follows a 12-year-old girl's first summer after her father and young brother were killed by a drunk driver. Wistfulness permeates the novel, including a boy's wish to connect with his emotionally distant father, an obsession with the life and early death of an admired actress, and a girl's struggle to find her footing after learning that nothing is ever certain. Ally Condie (Matched) writes with an understated narrative style, making the grief particularly heartrending and palpable. Middle-grade characters are given considerable responsibility and independence -- they sometimes deceive their parents about their activities, but they don't get into serious trouble and are held accountable.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5, 11, and 13-year-old Written byPepperoniPizza November 26, 2018

Are you kidding me?

The first thing my daughter told me when she finished this book was, ¨Are you kidding me?¨ My 11 yr old daughter LOVES this book. It is hands-down her favorite... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bymjett5577 June 24, 2016

Not the best realistic-fiction story of friendship

It's the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byLilly Star February 26, 2021

Really good for younger and older kids

I LOVED this book! I'm fourteen and still found it really interesting and enjoyable. The characters seemed so sweet and realistic and I would love to meet... Continue reading

What's the story?

It's been a year since Cedar Lee's father and her young brother, Ben, died in a car accident. Her broken family is spending the summer in her mother's Utah hometown, where Cedar meets a new friend, Leo, and lands a job working at the Summerlost theater festival. Leo loves theater and is fascinated by local legend Lisette Chamberlain, an actress who died mysteriously years ago. Cedar is drawn into the drama of Lisette's life, helping Leo conduct tours for Lisette's fans. As she learns more about Lisette and how her remarkable life and tragic death hauntingly linger for the town and her admirers, Cedar grapples with how the aching loss of her father and brother will color the rest of her days.

Is it any good?

This beautifully told story of a girl struggling to find normalcy after the horrific loss of her father and brother sneaks up on you, hooking you with its blend of heartbreak, healing, and hope. SUMMERLOST is a pitch-perfect offering from Ally Condie, best known for the fantasy Matched trilogy. Anyone who's dealt with loss -- whether the death of a loved one or a parting of ways with a friend -- will relate to Cedar's difficulty reconciling her past with her future. She struggles with regret, guilt, and fear, with her faith in the everyday badly shaken.

Cedar is haunted not only by what she loved and misses about her father and brother but by what she didn't get a chance to know and will never be able to understand. Gently written but emotionally searing, this honest, quiet novel is a good starting point for conversations about life, death, and the mark we leave on those around us.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about death and grief. Can you relate to Cedar's experience?

  • Why do you think Cedar's story is set with a drama festival as a backdrop?

  • What do you think is the best way to handle a bully

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories of grief and coming of age

Themes & Topics

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