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The Summer I Learned to Fly by D. Reinhardt

Reinhardt, Dana. The Summer I Learned to Fly. New York: Ember, 2012. Print.

The enthusiastic endorsement from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, on the cover of The Summer I Learned to Fly was persuasive. I picked up this coming-of-age novel with high expectations and it did not disappoint. Reinhardt’s heroine, Drew Robin Solo, aka Birdie, doesn’t have many friends and spends most of her time hanging around her mother’s cheese shop. It is 1986, the summer before Birdie begins grade eight. One night after closing the cheese shop, Drew meets a mysterious young man named Emmett Crane who eats the day-old bread and leftover cheese that Drew puts in the garbage. Drew learns the true meaning of friendship as she finds out who Emmett is, why he is there, and the sacrifices she is willing to make on his behalf. Over the course of the summer, Drew’s friendship with Emmett and his eclectic group of friends develops and when tragedy strikes, Drew must also cope with changing relationships with her Mom and her co-worker and surfer dude, Nick.

Reinhardt’s characters, both teen and adult, are flawed, fully drawn, and gloriously human. Drew’s emotional progression throughout the novel is encapsulated in a quiet and profound way: “I didn’t want to be the sort of friend who dashes dreams. Friends, I was pretty sure, lift their friends up; they don’t weigh them down like a sack full of stones.” The Summer I Learned to Fly is a heart-warming and worthy reminder of the choice we all have: to weigh each other down, or to lift each other up. It is highly recommended for a broad audience, but for young girls this book will particularly resonate.

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Tami Oliphant

Tami Oliphant is an assistant professor at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta.