Thursday, 17 April 2014

Review: Summer Days, Starry Nights by Vikki VanSickle

Vikki VanSickle's YA novel Summer Days, Starry Nights was published by Scholastic Canada Ltd. on June 1st, 2013. This novel has been commended for OLA Best Bets 2014 and also has been commended for CCBC's list of Best Books for Kids and Teens 2013.

Summary: It's 1962, and thirteen-year-old Reenie Starr comes alive the minute guests begin to arrive at her family's summer resort. She dreams of the day she can run Sandy Shores, and she spends her time helping out at the resort, swimming, climbing trees, and singing under the stars. 

One day, Reenie's mother announces that she thinks the resort could use some entertainment. She invites Gwen, her best friend's almost-grown daughter, to come and teach a dance class. Although Gwen seems sad and remote, Reenie's thrilled to have her there. 

As Reenie starts to learn more about the world beyond Sandy Shores, she comes up with a plan that could really put it on the map. She also finds herself caught between the simpler world of her childhood and all of the wonderful new discoveries (boys) and heartaches (boys) that growing up can bring. Reenie thought she wanted Sandy Shores to never change, but after this summer nothing will ever be the same again.

Summer Days, Starry Nights is a charming summertime read, set in cottage country Ontario. Filled with colourful characters who struggle with typical teenage conundrums such as identity issues, disapproving parents, relationships, and family drama, readers both old and young will find themselves falling in love with the story. Moreover, they will find a piece of themselves in this book.  

Young girls everywhere will see themselves in Reenie. We all want to be treated like an adult as we enter our teen years. The book forces us to see the wise truth of the matter, which is that being an adult and knowing about the adult world is not a wonderful thing. Ignorance is bliss. Knowing about marital problems, the complications of love and sexual relationships, of knowing your parents' secrets... all of this knowledge comes with growing up. And all young girls, like Reenie, want to grow up too fast. Sometimes it's easier to be happy and young and free of the pain of growing up.

This is a beautiful novel from a masterful Canadian storyteller, and I was surprised by how easily and how quickly I fell in love with this book. I've never read anything else by Vikki VanSickle, but I can now agree that she's a brilliant writer and she deserves all the acclaim she's received and more.

Summer Days, Starry Nights is a fantastic choice for classrooms and libraries. The story is so beautifully crafted and reads so eloquently that teachers and librarians will find this YA novel offers substantive value to their classrooms or collections, while also speaking volumes to its young readers.

4.5 Stars

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