A Summer Taken
Published July 4, 2020
About A Summer Taken
“The old green sign with painted yellow letters confirmed it–I was back. And like it or not, this was happening.”
14-year-old Julia is back at Lake Bradford for a very different reason than last time. Two years ago, she and her cousin Lizzie got to experience Camp Auctus, a leadership camp for gifted girls rooted in tradition, a place where even their mothers and grandmothers attended as girls. Campfires, fireflies, talent shows, races by the lake, friendships, and a mysterious Writer’s Hut nestled in the woods were just a few of the things that made Camp Auctus special.
But after a tragedy takes her cousin away, the best summer of Julia’s life becomes her worst. And now, she’s back, tasked with writing a tribute to the cousin she loved so deeply. Except…Julia isn’t sure she can do it. How can she put into words what she still has not been able to understand? Lizzie wasn’t just her best friend–she was her inspiration for change in the world.
A book series about multi-generational family and friendship, loss and grief, gun violence, the growth of divisive anger and hate we have allowed in our country, and a story of love and hope.
I love that this book takes a hard look at gun violence and the devastating impact it can have on a family and community, especially in a divisive political climate. I thought the setting of a summer camp to empower girls was a cool idea as well.
One thing I struggled with, though, was Julia’s character. She complains a lot, and I want to give her a pass for the parts of the story where she’s brittle and angry because she’s grieving her cousin’s death. But even when we flash back to a time before that, her character felt pretty much the same to me then. Kind of resentful and complaining.
I wanted to see more relationships develop between Julia and the other camp girls, who it seemed at been close to her cousin, and so would be grieving for her loss as well. Instead, the people Julia responded to the most were the adults in the story, like her camp counselor and her aunt. Those were neat scenes, and I loved seeing good mentors represented, but sometimes it felt like they handed Julia the answers she needed rather than her fighting to discover answers for herself.
On the whole, I liked the message of the story and the positive examples of mentors and role models, but I feel like Julia’s character lacked agency, and I wish there had been more relationship building or problem-solving or grieving together with the other campers.
Fans of summer camp stories or readers looking for stories with a strong message may want to look into this one.
Recommended for Ages 10 up.
Main character and her family are white. Julia battled an eating disorder in the past. I’m not sure about the quality of the representation there, but mostly the timeline of the story doesn’t focus on it.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Julia attends a funeral service for her cousin at a church.
Julia learns that her cousin was shot by a gunman at a political rally. She also overhears strangers laughing about her cousin’s death because they oppose her aunt’s political values.
Note: I received a free copy of A SUMMER TAKEN in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog.