Estelle: A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland

A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay ElandA Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 336
Target audience: Middle grade
Keywords: summer, small town, library, book loving main character
Format read: eBook from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Sunday is used to feeling a little forgotten in a family of six. So when her family relocates to a small town one summer, where her dad is redoing the library, she is determined to find something to make people remember her. A total and utter bookworm, Sunday discovers a manuscript in the old library. She is positive finding out the writer of this story will give her the attention she craves, and as her and her new friend, Jude, spend the summer on an adventure to find the answer, there are also some surprises.

You may not know it yet but you are probably a lot like Sunday. In most ways. Maybe you’re not smack dab in the middle of six kids in a family but even if you have another sibling, I’m sure your parents or relatives have mixed up your names. Or like me, with three older successful cousins, you can feel inferior sometimes. But I’ll go out on a limb and say you probably fit the bookish part of her. The girl who is so well-read (classics too!) at “almost 12”, she believes the library is magical, and she knows what it’s like to get lost in a story and its characters.

Seriously, Sunday is so enthusiastic about books you will fall in love with reading all over again.

In A Summer of Sundays, Sunday and her family are off to Alma for the summer. Her dad is helping to rebuild the library, her mom is chief organizer of the project, and the rest of their kids will make themselves at home for a few weeks. Sunday takes advantage of the new setting to seek out some circumstance that will help her stand out from her siblings once and for all. When she finds an unpublished manuscript in the library, her plan is to uncover the identity of the writer and make a splash with her discovery. She reluctantly divulges her find to new friend, Jude, who becomes her partner-in-crime and sometimes a voice of reason when Sunday gets a little too into things. (These two are too cute.)

As Sunday and Jude investigate within the town, we are introduced to some lovely supporting characters from Ms. Bodnar at the crepe shop and Mr. Castor, the misbehaving dog under the ownership of Muzzy and Phil. It was really wonderful to see how welcoming the small town was, and how easily Sunday’s family and the residents became friends and helped each other out. Eland really excels at the tiny details that allow each of these characters to feel so unique. (Even “off camera” with Sunday’s grandfather who always called Sunday his favorite day of the week.)

I can’t help but love Ben Folger, though. He’s the grumpy old neighbor that everyone is scared of and is connected to all these creepy rumors. Jude is scared to death of him, but Sunday’s interest is peaked. He’s just like a character in a few of her books! Maybe she can get him reconnected in society! I really liked watching this unconventional friendship unfold, and how Ben slowly reintroduced himself to a town that he has always loved (for many reasons). His own backstory is so romantic, and was truly a highlight of A Summer of Sundays for me.

There is so much to adore about this novel: Sunday’s curiosity to her insecurities with her place in the family, her older sister’s terrible driving lessons (who does not remember those times?!), loving (though busy) parents, and watching the process of a library go from an empty building to one where people can find joy in it again. And the allusion to To Kill a Mockingbird and Harper Lee? Such a brilliant bonus.

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Estelle: What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor

What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor
Publication Date: April 30, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pages: 326
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: underage drinking, small town, romance, high school graduation
Format read: ARC from NetGalley.

Summary: Before Jake can even toss his graduation cap in the air, his present and future are irreversibly affected when he makes the decision to drink at a party and then drive with friends who had been drinking and doing drugs. Cue. Car accident. T-pipe to throat. No longer being able to speak.

I don’t want this to sound like a PSA for underage drinking. We’ve heard all of this before. And so has Jake. He’s just your average guy who makes one mistake and affects the lives of many. He’s not unaware of his actions and the havoc they caused. Of course, he’s devasted. The money he’s costing his parents (who have seven children), his future plans are now impossible, he can’t play school sports anymore, he can only communicate to friends and family with a notebook, and everyone is always staring at him. Not the life he is used to for sure.

What I liked most about this book was the community. It was a small town full of supportive people, who even decided to make personal pledges to stop drinking for the remainder of the year because of the car accident. Jake’s family is the crowd that everyone wants to hang out with; they are always inviting and loving and helping others out. But there were so many times where I wished the family was more like the Garrett’s in Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door where we could truly get a handle on everyone’s personalities even if we met them in only a few fleeting moments.

Then there is Samantha, the girl that Jake has loved for a long time. Though they seemed to miss their chance of getting together in the past year, he still can’t get her out of his mind. But Samantha has grown distant and he doesn’t know what to do about that. He desperately wants to tell her how he feels, especially after the accident, when the two are paired in a sign language “class”. Sure, this was a little coincidental but I didn’t care what force brought them together. I wanted to see what could grow between them. Samantha has some mystery about her, and Jake is struggling to come to terms with his inability to speak. And really struggling… he’s positive one moment and down the next and I appreciated Taylor presenting this see-saw of emotions because there is no way someone could go through something this tramatic and be on a straight path to happiness.

While I enjoyed Jake and Samantha’s sweet love story, I do wonder if the story would have stayed more grounded if Samantha’s life did not deal with such extreme issues. Did all of this weigh down the story? Sometimes. Was it an over-the-top way to teach Jake to appreciate his life? And could it have been done in a quieter, less hectic manner? I think so. Jake was never depicted as this ungrateful, big-man-on-campus/football-player type. He was a typical teenager who had something bad happen to him.  Post-accident, I believe his true challenge was not getting dragged down by his disability and instead embracing it the best he could.

In general, Taylor took her own personal story and created a very original premise in What I Didn’t Say. Still, a fine read could have been bought to a whole new level by introducing a blanket of over-looked details (Jake’s family embracing sign language, what Jake was actually going to study in college the following here, etc.). Even though the novel lacks in development and unique voice in some areas, What I Didn’t Say is a fast-paced read, well worth your time that truly encompasses the unsure time between senior year of high school and the rest of your life, amplified by a million.

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Need more convincing?

> Melissa, I Swim for Oceans: “Most of all though, when you strip away the pretty words, we’re given two very basic characters who find the most pure and powerful connection of all.”
> Eva, The Book Stoner: “The novel offers something new because of Taylor’s fresh approach and the unique plots and twists.”