A lot going on here. It's a surprising amount of heavy info for middle grade and it handles the diverse themes well. The protagonist is a little frustrating and thematic shifts can be a little abrupt. Still, the discussions (especially those about what we tell girls about themselves and their bodies) makes it well worth reading and discussing with young readers.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me a free advanced copy of this book to read and review.
Lilla, a quiet twelve year old who doesn't want to rock the boat, and her long time friends, Vivi and Knox, always begin summer with a dandelion blowing contest to see who will choose the annual summer wish. This year Vivi wins and announces they will be participating in the Summer of Brave. Basically, Vivi is self assured and wants Lilla to speak up, fight for her dreams, and stop trying to make everyone happy. Fast moving issue and theme driven plot which involves the impact of divorce, sexual harassment, and a dress code blatantly biased against girls as our eighth grader characters navigate friendships, new and old, budding romances, and overbearing parental interference in regards to expectations. This is a superb coming of age story which checks all the right boxes. I suspect it will be on middle school reading lists for a very long time. Highly recommend.
This was a great Middle Grade debut, and I would definitely recommend trying it!
I received an e-ARC from the publisher.
THIS!! is how you nail voice. Clear and sincere and age accurate. So well done!
This is also how you nail age relevant, interesting AND essential content for MG readers.
This book really pushes at the true struggles and discomfort of finding our voice, boundaries, and how to say and claim our space or what we need.. when we’ve been taught not to do that to survive. Please parents and everyone around you and you will survive and be rewarded (and liked). How do we unlearn that when it’s been so internalized?? This shift happens as young girls spunk and desires have been repeatedly silenced. And normally girls turn inward and squeeze themselves into fitting in some way at around this age and this book is the push at the exact right to give a model of how to fight against that squashing of ourselves. It’s clarity and honesty are what makes it so powerful.
Short and packed a punch, with the perfect (slight) punch up older for content and dynamics for MG. There is discussion of street harassment which is also done SPOT ON for this age group and exactly what a MG reader should be able to turn to in a book as a window or a mirror to their beginning experiences with that BS, but reality of young womanhood.
This is a no brainer for classrooms and to rec to your MG students. Plus, the cover is so lovely so they’ll want to take it from your hands and bookshelves, no convincing needed! 5 stars slam dunk.
Wishing I had read this over the summer, but it’s not like I CAN’T re-read it then.
This is just such a lovely, little middle grade read with such lovable characters and a beautiful atmosphere overall. Reminded me a bit of A.S. King’s The Year We Fell from Space, with the elements of divorced parents and a main character striving to become independently real and true.
An essential for middle grade readers everywhere!
this was a beautiful novel that I can forever appreciate! it was really well-paced, and i definitely think this a perfect middle-grade read for essentially anyone! the topics tackled here were really well addressed as well!
I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this book, but I found this book delightful! It was an adventure in trying to be yourself without hurting anyone. At first it seems she has everything: good friends, parents who put her first and good grades. However, as her friend points out, she is not happy and her choices are agonizing to make fearing what her parents' reactions will be. WIth their summer traditions, she is forced to be brave. I was rooting for her but at the same time I understood trying to be yourself when you disappoint the ones you love. I was not expecting such a meaningful story, but this is one I will definitely promote at my library.
It's the summer before eighth grade, and Lilla and her two best friends have just started their annual summer tradition - the one that's filled with competition and dares. This year is Vivi's choice: the Summer of Brave.
Vivi dares her to stop lying to others, and herself, and be brave. At first, this is just about Lilla speaking up for herself and speaking her mind, but after a scary incident on the way home it becomes so much more. At the same time that Lilla is gathering her voice, she is realizing that her feelings about her best friend Knox are changing. Was he always so cute? Why is her heart beating so fast? Will this change their friendship forever?
Amy Noelle Parks deftly weaves the themes of young love, body autonomy and using your voice together into a wonderful middle grade novel which echoes of some classics from the recent past, like Chirp and Maybe He Just Likes You. What a great book club choice for kids in grades 5 and up.
Thanks to Albert Whitman, Netgalley and the author for an early copy to read and review.
Summer of Brave
I have been teaching high school for the past couple years, but this book alone might make me want to go back and teach middle school!
I loved all the characters in this book, even the imperfect ones served an important purpose.
I love the “empowerment for girls” storyline, I love the “coming of age” storyline, and I love the “coming out of her shell” storyline.
I think many of my students will identify with characters - the only complaint I have is that there isn’t much diversity among them. I guess Vivi is Asian-American, but that’s making an assumption based on a brief mention of her family name and maybe one other brief comment. But ... that’s it. Another book about middle and upper class white kids with well educated parents. Not that much is done subtly here, but that thread could have been seamlessly and carefully added in without changing the fabric of the story. It’s too bad because a more diverse cast of characters would have broadened everything about the book and might have led to one of my elusive (and exclusive) 5-star ratings.
This was such a sweet book! All young girls and boys should read this book because it touches on some very important topics, like divorce, friendship, being brave, and speaking up when you are made to feel uncomfortable.
I recommend this book and enjoyed reading it with my 11-year-old daughter.
I was sent this copy by NetGalley in return for my honest review. Thank you!
I will definitely be buying a hard copy of this book when it is released. So many relevant themes were touched on without it becoming too overwhelming. The characters were likable and realistic. This story is an age appropriate introduction to discussing #metoo with middle grade students. I LOVED IT.
This is a beautiful novel. Amy Noelle Parks navigates some touchy topics with grace.
Lila lives with her parents - in separate apartments as they are divorced. They each have a separate view of how she should live her future life. Her mom wants her to pursue the STEM field because that is where she is. Her dad wants her to pursue the arts. She wants to be her own person. As summer is near, her best friends Vivi and Knox decide they should participate in a “telling the truth” challenge. Lilla isn’t sure she can because she’s afraid her truths will ruin relationships that are important to her. She gets the summer job that Vivi wants. She’s suddenly attracted to Knox’s freckles, and doesn’t want to tell her parents that she doesn’t want to go to a special high school. Will telling the truth set her free? Or will it cause her to lose the relationships she is so concerned about?
Also, I was able to read this as an ARC thanks to the author, publisher, and being a member of #BookPosse
My Review: Gosh, if there was every a character I could relate to as a young girl, Lilla is it! The quiet, reserved girl who keeps her mouth shut so she doesn't upset anyone around her and does her best to keep everyone happy and meet everyone's expectations. I completely sympathized with amount of pressure she is under throughout the book. I really enjoyed watching her grow throughout the Summer Wish. While this book already has a pretty important topic about being brave and speaking up for yourself, it also adds in the topic of guy behavior towards women and girls. I really like the term used in this book of 'street harassment', it captures what every female experiences at some point in their life, often way too young to handle it. I like the way that the situation is handled in the story in the long run, Parks doesn't wave a magic wand and make it all okay with the story, she shows how often concerns are brushed aside. Really a beautifully written book and an important one as well.
My Rating: This was such a great book, the way the issues are raised, the way Lilla grows as a character and the challenges she faces are all handled so well. I give this one a rating of Four Paws and highly recommend it!
This is the story of Lilla, a twelve-year old girl, figuring out who she is and not who her parents and friends want her to be. Her friend challenges her to be brave over the summer and allows her to do things she wouldn’t otherwise do. In doing so, she finds her voice and discovers her way of being heard.
One thing that stood out in this book was the way her parents’ divorce was covered. Her parents are friendly post-divorce. They still make mistakes in how they include her in the divorce, but they are trying to figure out a way that works for everyone. It was nice to see a kid also recognize their parents are happier divorced and therefore, it works better for them. This isn’t a story of a kid trying to get their parents together or parents screaming at each other. I think it would be nice for kids to see more stories about divorce like this. Maybe when they grow up if they divorce it won’t be drama! There is comparison divorce with her friend. His dad left for the babysitter so that one is not so calm of divorce!
The story also covers a kid trying to be heard beyond her parents desires for her. Her mom wants her to go STEM and her dad Art. The school she could attend makes them choose one or the other. Seriously, why would ask a middle grader to make that kind of choice at that age. Kids need exposure to both.
There is a story line about harassment. I didn’t relate to it as much because this idea is new to me. I know it is not okay and having exposure in a book like this prepares me for it. I know now I can speak up if it happens.
I recommend giving this book a couple chapters before you give up. It takes a little to fully get going. There are a lot of little stories that build to the big story. It kind of reads like a TV show and multiple episodes.
This was such a sweet read. I would recommend this to any child. The author wonderfully handles topics like divorce, boy's behavior & first love.
Summer of Brave by Amy Noelle Parks
Publication Date: March 1, 2021
Description from NetGalley...
“Twelve-year-old Lilla Baxter-Willoughby doesn’t lie. She’s just a little bit…selective.
To keep her parents happy, Lilla hides how much she hates moving back and forth between their houses, and she stomps down her doubts about that elite high school they’re pushing her toward. To keep peace with her best friend Vivi, Lilla doesn’t share that she got the junior camp counselor job that Vivi wanted. And even though—no, especially because—he seems into it, Lilla does not tell the boy she grew up with about all the little sparks that flared up inside her the day she noticed his Suddenly Adorable Freckles.
So when Vivi dares Lilla to start telling the truth as part of their Summer of Brave, Lilla hesitates. Because if she says out loud what she really wants, her whole life might crash down around her. And she doesn’t need that.
Except maybe she does.”
Thank you to @NetGalley @albertwhitman for the digital ARC in return for my honest review. And to @amy.noelle.parks for telling me about it.
Love, love, love! Parks nailed it with this book. The experiences, musings, conversations and feelings were so relatable and hit all the marks for a coming-of-age story. It felt like she was writing about my 12-year-old self. The narrative was great, I couldn’t put this book down. The way Parks handled the issue of “catcalling” was sensitive and educational. I want to follow this group of friends. I want to know what happens to them. This is a middle-grade book, but the messages in here can be for adults. Honestly, this book gave me fluttery feelings. I wish I could go back and give this book to my younger self: to validate. Be brave. Be true.
I quickly fell in love with this book of a girl finding herself, learning to stand on her own two feet. Lilla is a sweetheart and a people pleaser. Every summer, her and her two best friends make a wish on a dandelion. Whoever wins, gets to make the other two do a dare. This year, the dare is to be brave and tell the truth. I quickly found myself rooting for Lilla as she began to come out of her shell and realize that you can’t make everyone happy. I highly recommend this book for middle grade readers. I also loved how it tackled themes of divorce and when things start changing that are out of your control.
SUMMER OF BRAVE by Amy Noelle Parks is an important read for middle age girls and anyone who knows one!
In the summer before her eighth-grade year, Lilla feels the pressure of having to choose between high schools--basically the STEM-based magnet school that you must "get in" to, or the traditional high school. Her high-powered, divorced parents each have their own ideas for what she should do, and neither are what Lilla actually wants. More importantly, Lilla admits to herself that at age 13, she doesn't know what she wants. But Lilla is a people pleaser, and she keeps many of her thoughts to herself. So when her out-going, sure-of-herself best friend Vivi declares this the summer of brave--telling the truth, speaking up, facing fears--it is a challenge that Lilla dreads, yet rises to. Lilla is stronger than she--and everyone around her--thinks.
As woman, a teacher, and mother of two girls, the subplot that hit me the most was that in which Lilla struggles with unwanted attention from an older boy. She struggles with feeling like she did something wrong, with wanting to be nice and not make a big deal of it, with people basically telling her that "boys will be boys". Lilla learns an important lesson--that she is not alone--and that speaking up, and standing up may be uncomfortable and scary, but it is the right thing to do.
Lilla's summer journey from a passive pleaser to a self-confident young woman is believable and inspiring as it breaks down the constructs of what a girl is supposed to be.
Thank you to NetGalley and Albert Whitman & Company for the E-ARC!
“Summer of Brave” is a beautiful middle-grade novel that deals with quite a few issues while growing up.
Firstly, the author wrote the characters very nicely. Lilla is a complex character, and I thought she went through a lot in the story. She goes through many emotions, like adjusting to her parents and making her friends happy over Magnet School. Moreover, she does not agree with some of the things they do, but she keeps quiet to please them. I feel this is something that would resonate with adults. I enjoyed how she matured in the story, where she learns to be vocal yet still respective of people’s feelings.
Similarly, supporting characters like Knox and Vivi are also engaging in the plot. Initially, I felt that Vivi was a bit bossy towards her friends. But, I liked how she boosts Lilla’s confidence, like when she forces her to talk to Mrs. Wilder. It was interesting to see how the author tested their friendship (like the counselor job) as they start maturing. I also enjoyed the sudden feelings Lilla has towards Knox and how she handles it. Knox and Lilla share an excellent company, and I loved how they supported each other when he told her about his father’s new relationship.
One of the highlights was the storyline revolving around Matt’s harassment. I thought the author depicted the issue in a graceful manner. Moreover, some small but memorable moments stood out for me. For instance, when Lilla and Prisha talk about being a girl and how they need to behave in a particular manner in society. Or when Lilla overhears her parents dating and gets upset. Overall, the author balanced all the topics seamlessly and made “Summer of Brave” fun to read.