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The Summer I Learned to Fly
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
Themes & Topics
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