This One Summer

This One Summer

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Book Review

Rose and Windy have been “summer cottage friends” since they were five. But this year is different: The tweens encounter local secrets and sorrows and start thinking about themselves and their world in new ways.

Plot Summary

Rose and her parents have been trekking out to the tiny town of Awago for as long as she can remember. And each summer she’s met up with Windy, who’s kinda like the sister she’s never had and whose family has a cabin just down the road.

Each year, it’s been the two of them hiking through the woods, playing at the nearby beach, collecting shells, listening to music, and the like. And this year is kinda the same … but then again, it’s not.

This year the girls see things they might not have paid attention to before. Rose realizes that her parents aren’t as happy. There’s a quiet strain between them that she can feel in the air but can’t quite grasp. And the girls start noticing the local teens, too: the words they use, the things they’re drinking, their crude talk of sex.

Rose starts paying attention to one teen guy in particular, who’s gotta be at least five years older than she and Windy (though Windy thinks it’s more). This guy, Dunk, works at the corner store in Awago. He calls Windy HipHop and Rose Blondie. Rose likes the nickname. It makes her feel grown up.

In fact, Rose and Windy will discover a lot more grown-up things this summer. Some of them will be secret things, others will be sad, and some will be flat-out scary. And for a couple of tween girls, those things won’t always be easy to understand.

Christian Beliefs

None.

Other Belief Systems

None.

Authority Roles

Both Rose and Windy have loving parents, but those parents have struggles. Windy’s dad is off on business during the holiday and we never meet him. And the relationship between Rose’s parents, Evan and Alice, is strained—caused by a sad event in Alice’s recent past that Rose doesn’t know about.

Evan and Alice argue and have a hard time getting past Alice’s emotional pain. And that eventually leads to Evan deciding to go back to the city for several days. Rose is upset that he must leave, and Evan takes a walk with her, hoping to reassure her. “It’s all adult junk,” he tells her. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

When Windy’s mom recognizes the tug-and-pull in Rose’s family, she does her best to not only support Alice, but to kindly offer a ready ear to Rose as well. All three adults in these two families try to be supportive of their kids.

That said, there doesn’t seem to be any parental guidance at all for the crowd of local teens that hang around the local store (the only store in town other than a pizza place). Those teens seem to run wild.

Profanity & Violence

The above-mentioned teens also tend to be the core source of most of this story’s content problems. Language can get pretty nasty in spots here, including nearly twenty f-words, ten s-words and several uses of “b–ch” and “a–hole.” God’s and Jesus’ names are misused a total of four times, too (combining God with “d–n” once).

Adults and teens drink beer and wine quite a bit—including all the parents and Rose’s aunt and uncle who come to visit. Rose and Windy never drink alcohol, but Rose does mention that her uncle once offered her a beer. We see teens drinking or drunk in the store’s parking lot. One heavily inebriated teen girl runs off to cause herself harm. Rose’s mom takes some prescription pills. The teens and Rose’s dad smoke. Rose suggests that Windy’s addiction to sugar is “like crack-cocaine,” but Windy assures her that sugar is far more addictive. The girls talk about someone who supposedly took LSD, broke into some’s pool and drowned.

Rose and Windy rent and watch horror movies from the store. We don’t see any of the bloody particulars, but we do see the girls’ reactions, and later Windy admits she’s having nightmares from the movies’ content.

[Spoiler Warning] A teen, in a drunken, depressed fit of anger, attempts to drown herself before Rose’s mother leaps in to save her life. We also learn of someone struggling with the long-lasting emotional pain of a miscarriage.

Sexual Content

Some fairly crude comments are tossed about by the local teens about oral sex and young women’s breasts. Those comments lead Rose and Windy to talk to each other about those subjects as well—and trigger questions about their own developing bodies and the bodies of schoolmates, all around their age of 10 to 12.

Teens are depicted kissing in the store parking lot. A local teen wears several t-shirts sporting sexually crude slogans. One of the teen girls in town finds out that she’s pregnant with another local teen’s baby.

Discussion Topics

None.

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Additional Comments

This bestselling graphic novel has been praised for the way it approaches the idea of tweens coming to recognize the world around them and all of its problems. And this story does encourage kids to turn to parents and friends for help when making their way through thorny issues of the day. (And it definitely does not glamorize the heavy drinking and implied sexual permissiveness at its core.)

That said, parents of younger readers should note that the language here is distinctly foul and there are certainly very adult issues in the mix.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose