Cover Image: Three Summers

Three Summers

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Member Reviews

This memoir is broken into three sections, one for each of the summers Amra spends with her cousins. Before that first summer, her family experiences a terrible loss, and Amra sinks into a dark depression. As she gets to know her cousins, she begins to have hope again, confidence in herself, and the courage to form friendships with others.

Her love for her family is so clear in the pages of the book. It celebrates familial bonds, especially those between a child and their parents, and the bonds between siblings and cousins.

This is the first book I’ve ever read about the Bosnian Genocide, though it isn’t the author’s first memoir about that time. After reading this book, I ordered a copy of her YA memoir, THE CAT I NEVER NAMED, so hopefully I’ll be ready to share my review of that book soon, too.

Technically, this book focuses on the years leading up to the genocide, in which the government becomes more and more hostile, one slow step at a time. I’m not gonna lie; it is harrowing to read a story like this and see parallels in some of the dehumanizing rhetoric certain political leaders are using right now.

Those comments make stories like this critically important because we need to remember that genocide doesn’t begin with the targeted deaths of a group of people. It begins with the systematic dehumanization of them.

I’m so glad Sabic-El-Rayess continues to write about her experiences in a way that kids can read about. The scenes in this book stay focused on Amra’s experience as a child, looking through her eyes. This is an important book, especially now. I hope that many people will discover and read it.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

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A beautiful memoir about a young girl finding herself, despite tragedy and challenges surrounding her. Amra is used to taking care of her older brother and defending him from bullies who tease him about his medical condition. When her brother passes away, Amra is left grieving and also trying to figure out who she is. With the help of estranged family, Amra learns that she can still enjoy life, find herself, and become an amazing young woman, despite all she's faced. Great for upper MG readers and beyond!

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Three Summers by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess reads a bit like a tween diary kept during three three *mostly* idealic summers before her world was completely torn apart. There is nothing wrong with that, this IS a middle grade memoir. But I really wish the details the author wrote about in her Author's Note were incorporated into the main pages of the memoir because that's where she talks about surviving the genocide against her people and I thought what she had to say was so important. In sharing her life before genocide she's humanizing her story and it puts into perspective how badly things went. But I worry young readers will stop reading at the end of the book, will skip the Author's Note, and will not realize what happened next. With all of that said, I put her book, The Cat I Never Named on my TBR list. It looks like a very important read!

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This book is about 5 cousins that become closer than sisters over the course of three summers. They go through loves and heartache, and all the teenage issues. This book is one that encompasses even more than most teens could handle but these cousins had no other choice. This is a book that will take your emotion on a roller coaster ride of their life.

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The cover for Three Summers seemed to be a graphic novel, and that is why I originally asked to review this book.
Amra details her close knit family and surrounding community in this middle grade memoir. Even though she discussed more about the actual war at the end of the story, I was hoping that her details would be woven into the memoir itself. Sadly, the readers I serve won't be drawn into this memoir on their own, but may fare better using this one as a whole class read.

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This was a read I very much enjoyed. I am a fan of memoirs and although it is written for a middle grade audience, I thought it was a good read. The emotion packed a punch and the description was done well. I hadn't known a lot about the Bosnian Conflict so learning about it through the memoir was very engaging. I would recommend this to young teens looking to read a new memoir (especially if it's a class assignment).

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Thank you NetGalley, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, and Amra Sabic-El-Rayess for the opportunity to read this e-ARC!

Three Summers was a beautifully written memoir. Amra is living the shadow of the tension brewing in Bosnia in the 1980s, with a strong family and community surrounding her. When her older brother dies unexpectedly and tragically, Amra's whole world turns to grief. The three summers after were the magical awakening with her cousin Zana, who came to visit from Belgrade and helped Amra grow out of grief and into love and young womanhood.

This memoir includes the genocide and war that Amra lived through, but it is not just a book about the horrors of the world, it's a book about hope and love and life.

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Amra details growing up in Bosnia, her strong family ties, and life as Muslims before the war in 1992 tears them apart.

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DNF at 34%. I need to start my review by explaining that I requested this because I mistakenly thought it was a graphic novel. I decided to give it a go anyway. This is a story of a young girl told over three summers in Bosnia. The writing in this is very simple, and it felt like reading a twelve year old’s diary. I know this is marketed as middle grade, but the storytelling feels very childish. This a case of the book telling rather than showing. I’ve set this aside to read 3 other books in the last 2 months.

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I am devastated after reading Three Summers.

Amra is a homely young girl, sheltered from much of what her preteen/teen counterparts have been exposed to-makeup, crushes, fashion. She’s living in late 80s Bosnia at a time when Serbs are increasingly isolating and discriminating against Bosniaks, serving as a backdrop to an already tumultuous time. Amra has survived a personal tragedy and is left feeling like she has no one.

Three Summers changes everything. She’s introduced to cousins that become light, motivation, excitement, and adventure in her life when they gather each summer, growing older and developing their interests.

Sabic-El-Rayess does THE MOST incredible writing and transports the reader directly to those awkward teen years as she perfectly describes butterflies due to a crush, first try makeup fails, figuring out how to love our bodies. Being immersed in those familiar feelings makes the horrors of impending genocide even more shocking.

Friendships, lives, families are all at stake when opposing sides butt heads and not one character can prepare for what politics and religion can do to a homeland, to the people you identify as your own.

I’m thankful this memoir gives us so many happy moments but, man, I was crushed when reading the follow ups.

This memoir is dazzling with memories and hope for each summer. All the same, it’s a tragic open wound. Raw and absolutely going to leave a scar.

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In this autobiographical, coming-of-age book, we meet Amra and get a glimpse into her life in Bosnia over the course of three summers leading up to the Bosnian conflict, but the story ends there. There is considerable information regarding the events surrounding the war in the Afterword sections.

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Three Summers was a great and timely read. I did not know much about the Bosnian Conflict, so it was an interesting read. I thought the characters were relatable and the author navigated tough topics with grace.

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A wonderful memoir about the bonds of families. I enjoyed reading about everyone as they grew over those three summers. I know next to nothing about Bosnia or Bosnian culture so I greatly enjoyed how descriptive the book was.

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A beautiful and exciting story! I loved the characters and was rooting for them the whole time. A must read!

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A Heartrending Ode to Sisterhood and Resilience

Having read "The Cat I Never Named," I was already primed for the emotional depth and cultural insights Amra Sabic-El-Rayess offers in her writing. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer brilliance of this novel, a poignant prequel that manages to be both heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measure.

From the very beginning, as Sabic-El-Rayess shares the bittersweet tale of her relationship with her older brother, Amar, and the sorrow of his passing, I was hooked. Her words paint a vibrant tableau of Bosnian culture, steeped in traditions of hospitality, family, and deep-seated bonds of friendship. Woven through the narrative is a delicate thread of young love, a testament to the throes of adolescence and the challenges the five young cousins face.

As they navigate the treacherous waters of an escalating political crisis, what truly stands out is their resilience. The bond these young girls share, tighter than that of sisters, becomes their anchor amidst the storm. And it's this bond that shines a light on the true spirit of humanity, showing us that even in the darkest of times, love and unity prevail.

These kinds of books made me the empathetic person I am today. Authors like Sabic-El-Rayess craft such evocative narratives that shape our understanding of the world and our place in it. Every generation needs stories like these, stories that resonate, uplift, and, ultimately, heal.

"Three Summers" isn't just a book; it's an experience, a journey of the heart that will leave an indelible mark long after the last page is turned. Simply put, it was absolutely breathtaking.

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The perspective brought by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess in Three Summers is a much needed insight to a part of history that may not always be covered in middle grade history classes. Middle-grade readers will be swept up in this heartwarming coming-of-age book that is all about friendships, forgiveness, grief, and navigating all the big feelings that are universal for 12-15 year-olds.

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Growing up, I remember watching bits and pieces of the war in Bosnia on the news with my parents. However, that was the only information that I got about the war until I read this book. I do not understand why, but for some reason, this war is hardly talked about in History Classes or in History Books. When I saw this book on Netgalley, I realized that I had never actually read a book about the war in Bosnia before. So, I would like to thank Netgalley for giving me access to a pre-released copy of this book to review. Three Summers: A Memoir of Sisterhood, Summer Crushes, and Growing Up on the Eve of the Bosnian Genocide by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess is such an amazing memoir that does a great job depicting what life was like as a pre-teen growing up in Bosnia just as the war was starting. It was very interesting to read about how the troubles progressed throughout the three summers and how it did not just happen all at once. I would also like to add that the pre-teen coming of age storyline was so well written! I loved both storylines and the author did a terrific job intertwining them together. I was also very grateful to the author for adding a timeline and a where are they now section at the end of the book. I was very curious to see how everybody ended up. All in all, I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend this book to patron’s ages 13 and up who are interested in learning about what life is like growing up during war time.

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I looked forward to reading more by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess, after reading her vivid memoir of life during the Bosnian war, and I was pleased to see that this was a memoir of her earlier life during peaceful times. I feel like the age group that this book would appeal to is unclear. Likely teens, but this might be best paired with The Cat I Never Named, so that readers are familiar with her family members and recognize the before and after of peace and war.

Overall, I love the way she writes. Sabic-El-Rayess has so much empathy and shows all the wonderful facets of her characters. The love she feels for her family really shines through. That said, the book is a bit dense. It takes a commitment to sit down and read through and process. It would work well as a high school literacy study, especially, as I said, paired with her earlier memoir.

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The war in Bosnia is an event that mostly went under the radar in the 1990s (in America) so it's no surprise that today's youth have practically no knowledge. The fall of the Berlin Wall, while huge at the time, is also an event that most American youth know little about. Thanks to authors like Jennifer Nielsen and Jenni Walsh, post World War II history is taking middle grade readers by storm. But a literary gap still exists over Bosnia. That's why I'm excited about this book.

Three Summers is an autobiographical, coming-of-age story about a teen girl named Amra (the author). When the story begins, Amra is coming to terms with the death of her older brother. Since he was her best friend, she spends the following year in a low grade depression. She is rescued from her sadness by Zana, her happy, fun, sophisticated cousin. In their short first summer, they spend their days swimming at the river, talking fashion, trying out makeup, and dreaming about boys. Amra loves that Zana is honest, rather than putting on airs. They have so much fun, they vow to write often and spend the entire summer together the following year.

Summer 2 happens just as planned. A little older, they continue to obsess over boys (especially Zana) and discover the fun of being out at night with other teens. They both agree it's the best summer ever and plan for summer 3. Unfortunately, things are heating up politically. Muslims are being targeted by the Serbians as racially inferior people. Summer 3 is not shaping up as the girls hope. While Zana's mother is a Bosnian Muslim like Amra, her father is a Serbian. Zana is allowed to visit with some conditions in place. Still, the girls manage to have fun going to the discotheques with their many cousins and friends. Because of the racial divide, this is Zana's last visit.

This was a likable story, but flat from a descriptive and emotional standpoint. As much as I wanted to relive this experience through the author, I just couldn't get there. I've often heard reviewers criticize authors for telling rather than showing, I would say that applies here. I was fascinated by all the family connections. Aunts, uncles and cousins kept coming out of the woodwork. I was also fascinated by the concept of image surrounding hospitality. They'll go to the poorhouse to provide a good meal, but turn on their own family members just as quickly. From my experience living in a Communist country, it's a Communist thing.

My last comment relates to the Bosnian conflict, which was only on the periphery of the story. Amra goes to great links to give a timeline and facts about the war in the Afterword sections. Since the story ends before any of this happens, it's confusing and honestly doesn't serve it's purpose. I am interested to know what that war was all about and what it was like to live through, but I need that in a story, not a rushed followup.

A good read, but not gripping, and therefore not likely to be the big winner it could have been.

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