Review: The Summer Before Boys

Julia’s mother was shipped off to Iraq to work as a nurse in the National Guard. Her father is too busy to watch her, so she spends her summer with relatives, including best friend Eliza. The two girls are inseparable, spending their time at the resort where Eliza’s father works, a place where they get free ice cream and relatively free reign so long as they are well behaved. They occupy themselves with make believe games and mischief. Julia tries to avoid worrying about her mom, but can’t help remembering all the research she has done about women in war from time to time.

However, when Julia meets Michael, she finds even more distraction from her everyday problems. In a transitional period between finding boys icky and craving her first kiss, Julia grows more and more obsessed with “bumping into” Michael at the hotel. Unfortunately, Eliza has trouble competing for attention, and Julia’s burgeoning interest in boys threatens to tear their relationship apart.

Nora Raleigh Baskin’s The Summer Before Boys is a coming of age story that chronicles the awkwardness of a 12 year old girl first realizing her interest in boys, an interest that must be reconciled with the desire to spend time with friends. More than that, it is a book about loss of innocence in a girl who is discovering that the world can be a scary place, a place where parents go to war and don’t always come back, or come back different than they were before they left.

While I often found the pacing slow, the passages dealing with Julia’s fear of losing her mom in war were moving and important in our post-9/11 world. I may not have been captivated by the games Julia and Eliza play, but I appreciated Baskin’s depiction of a girl struggling to become a woman without the help of her mother.


5 Responses to "Review: The Summer Before Boys"

  • Why have I not heard of this? It sounds like a good read, but the last thing I need is something slow after the last book I read 😛 Great review, Melanie!

    1 Jen said this (May 11, 2011 at 10:33 AM)

    • I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it on Galley Grab, but I admittedly am not the most in the know sorta person when it comes to MG stuff.

      2 Melanie said this (May 11, 2011 at 4:20 PM)


    3 stupid said this (February 4, 2013 at 3:59 PM)

Ping- & Trackbacks

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