Book Review: Summerlost


summerlost book coverAlly Condie’s books (Matched trilogy, Atlantia) are brilliant in a refreshingly non-flashy way. Summerlost is no exception.

As a preview, a letter from Ally herself:

Dear Readers,

I think most of us have had our hearts broken. Sometimes we can see it coming, and sometimes it comes down with the unexpected force of a sudden gale of wind or a rising of waters that we thought were still and safe. Loss is universal to human experience, but the way we each feel and recover is one of the most personal things we do.

In Summerlost, Cedar is dealing with the loss of her father and younger brother. And my intent was to show how hard their deaths are for her. But this is also a book about the healing power of friendship.

Most of us have been broken-hearted; I hope that most of us have also discovered the miracle of friendships that were just what we needed. Cedar and Leo’s friendship is based on someone I met when I was twelve. Like Leo, my friend was fun and liked to enlist me in crazy adventures (although we never gave a secret guided tour of our town the way they do in Summerlost). And, like Leo, he thought I was wonderful and of worth at a time when I needed it most.

SUMMERLOST is my attempt to pay tribute both to the pain we feel and the friendships that save us. Thank you so much for supporting this book, and for your willingness to give Cedar’s story a try. I hope it makes you think of a wonderful friend of your own, whether that is someone you met in the pages of a favorite book or outside, in the world where it is often hard and beautiful to live.

Best wishes and happy reading always,

Ally Condie

 

Review

Summerlost is hauntingly beautiful. It’s technically a middle-grade novel, since both of the main characters are 12, but it bears reading by any age.

As Ally’s letter explains, this is a book about death, friendship, family, and healing. It is deep without being over the head of an MG reader and beautifully worded without being stuffy. The cover (above) really gives you a good feel for the tone of the book, honestly. I repeatedly stopped reading in awe over Condie’s ability to weave her plot in prose that feels as careful and seamless as poetry.

Cedar Lee, the main character, is a girl who could be any other girl. She’s hurt, lost in a world without her father and brother. Her character is carefully built throughout the story, with layers revealed even 200 pages in. A specific aspect of her growth is the fact that she doesn’t seem to have strong dreams or ambitions, unlike Leo, her new friend. I grew up without a strong career idea and without the dogmatic list of dreams and goals my siblings and friends had, so Cedar’s lack of drive is important to me and I think important to girls who are growing up now.

Cedar and Leo have a beautiful friendship, but my favorite part of the friendship might be that it is just that–a friendship. Condie addresses the possibility of romance (they are 12) without tainting the special relationship they have as friends.

Summerlost is well worth the read for MG, YA, and adult readers. Condie has delivered a book deserves thought, invites conversation, and encourages rereading.

Pick up a copy:

Penguin Random House

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Review copy and promotional materials provided by Penguin.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Summerlost

  1. I was ambivalent about the Matched series, though I read them all, and I read Condie’s next book and again was a little “meh” about it, but when I saw this come out, the summary captured me and I was hoping it’s as good as it looks. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it. I’ll have to find a copy this summer!

    • I’m not a raving fan of her books, but they do all feel different to me–that is, different from everything else I’m reading in YA. I haven’t analyzed closely enough to figure out why that is yet, but some of it seems to be her very careful prose and her immersion in a variety of other literatures. She constantly seems to be referencing or using quotes from other books. So I enjoy her stuff because it doesn’t feel quite as typical as the other YA books I’m seeing.

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