Book Review: Summerlost by Allie Condie

Summary: It's the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.

Release Date: March 2016
Age Group: Middle Grade
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Maryn

Before you read this review I want to give an explanation of how this review transpired. There is a group of girls that frequent my house, I call them The Tweens. One of them is Maryn. Maryn is a book junky, spunky and she even sings... yea, she's just that cool. 

Everyone around me knows that my bookshelves are always open. Maryn is one that loves to come and see what I've got. I asked her if she would like to review a few middle grade books for me that I just hadn't had time to do and she enthusiastically accepted. When I pulled Summerlost from my shelf I told her that I didn't know much about it other than it came from a good author and that it was probably about death. She assured me she could handle the sad stuff. Maryn is like me in that we do not read the back cover of books, we go in blind! It's exciting and we agree that they usually spoil something.

Now read her review and then I will finish this touching tale.

I was  pleasantly surprised by this book. I say surprised because when I first picked it up, I had low expectations for it. Mainly because I didn't know the first thing about it only that someone died.
As I read this book, I became emotionally connected with the main character Cedar. I really got to see the world through her eyes and this story sent me on an emotional roller coaster. At times I felt happy, and a second later, I'd want to cry. It really hurt to see Cedar suffer when she lost her brother Ben.

Early on in the story, Cedar addresses that her brother had disabilities. This really broke my heart because I have two brothers with Autism. I saw traits in Ben that I see daily in Braden and Bradley (my brothers). Although a good portion of this book was sad, there was a lot of mystery and adventure for Cedar. Countless times I was left wondering what would happen next.
This was a touching story about family and friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'd recommend it for all ages. 

As Maryn read this book she stopped by and told me that she thought Ben had autism. I immediately panicked because I knew where it was headed. I couldn't believe I asked her to read a book about the death of an autistic brother. You see, Maryn has an older and younger brother with autism. For that, I think she is an expert in the day to day life of children with autism. She described the different situations happening in the book and told me that she was pretty sure this boy had autism. She talked a lot about how the author must have done a lot of research and how she had gotten so many little "ticks" right. We talked a lot about what goes into writing a story and how you have to know your facts. This couldn't have been an easy read for Maryn. I know she felt a lot while reading and she really related with the character Cedar because in some aspects, she is Cedar.

While this is a heavier read for middle grade students, I think it is also pure genius. It really packs an emotional punch and makes them reflect on family relationships, loss and just what it really means to have #thefeels. I know that this is a middle grade read but I think it is also ideal for junior high kids too. 

Hats off to Allie Condie, I do believe middle grade lit. is your niche! And excellent debut review to Maryn, you're going to move mountains kid!

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