The Summer I Learned to Fly

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
The Summer I Learned to Fly Book Poster Image
Touching coming-of-age story with some mature themes.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

This book's rich story will not only encourage tween and teen reading, but can also get readers thinking about what it means to be a friend, what it means to come of age, what they would do in Drew's place, and more.

Positive Messages

There are plenty of coming-of-age themes as Drew learns what it means to be a true friend -- and make her own choices.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Drew makes some dangerous choices -- such as sneaking out of her room at night to help a boy on a quest, and stealing money from her mother's cheese shop -- but her heart is in the right place. She is learning to be a friend, and along the way learning to make her own choices -- and to believe that miracles do happen, even if they happen slowly.

Violence

A young teen describes being robbed and having his cheek cut with a razor blade.

Sex

There are definitely the beginnings of some feelings between Emmett and Drew; she notices his body when he jumps in the water, and he kisses her between her eyes. Also, Drew has a crush on the older boy at the shop, her friends talk about boys, and she learns her mother is dating someone.

Language

Some minor stuff, like "crap."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some runaway teens smoke, adults drink wine at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the protagonist in this coming-of-age story is a 13-year-old girl who sometimes makes dangerous decisions. Not only does she befriend a runaway teen and hangs out with his friends who smoke and squat in an abandoned barn, but she also sneaks out of her room at night to help Emmett on a quest, and steals money from her mother's cheese shop. But her heart is in the right place; Drew is learning to be a friend, and along the way learning to make her own choices -- and to believe that miracles do happen, even if they happen slowly.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

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Kid, 12 years old September 16, 2012

Beautiful Story

Most of the time I tend to find coming-of-age books pretty boring. But The Summer I Learned To Fly is an amazing masterpiece! Nick is an excellent role model... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 2, 2011

Good story of friendship but the moral isn't okay.

I found the character relationships in this book irritating. The mom is being purposely deceptive to Drew about the fact that she's dating someone, and Dr... Continue reading

What's the story?

When Drew spends the summer working at her mother's new cheese shop, she befriends the strange boy who has been eating the leftover food she leaves in the alley behind the store. She has her own complications in life -- including an unrequited crush on an older boy and a mother who seems to be dating again -- but as she learns Emmett's darker secrets, she puts everything on the line for him, risking her relationship with her mother and sacrificing something she really loves.

Is it any good?

The author weaves together many elements to create this tender coming-of-age story. There's the cheese shop, her mother's new mysterious boyfriend, the journal she finds left behind by her dead father, the accident that leaves her crush disabled, Emmett's family tragedy, his quest to find a miracle, and more -- not to mention Drew's many names -- she's also sometimes Robin or Birdie. But the author handles this material expertly, using these varied elements to create Drew's vivid world, and help readers understand her sometimes dangerous choices. Readers may have a hard time believing how emotionally vulnerable the young characters are with each other at times, but they will still be moved by the obvious love they share, especially Drew and Emmett, who learn what it takes to be true friends.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about coming-of-age stories. What does this term mean? How is Drew's perspective about life different than it was in the beginning?

  • What makes a hero? Can a book's protagonist be a good role model even if he or she makes dangerous choices, as Drew does here?

  • How concerned should parents be with how characters behave? Does the behavior of fictional characters have any impact on how teens act? What about characters in movies or television shows?

Book details

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