September 2, 2011

Book Review: Summer on Fire

Title:  Summer on Fire
Author: Kevin Craig
Publisher:  Museitup Publishing 

Zach Carson is a loyal friend. But is loyalty enough to keep best friends together when one of them sets fire to the rural barn they use as the local hangout?  
Zach, Jeff Barsell and Arnie Wilson struggle to pick up the pieces when news spreads that a body was discovered in the burnt out shell of the neighbouring home. When the word murder is used by the local police, the stakes grow even higher. When the police start searching for their most likely suspect-none other than Jeff's older brother, and nemesis, Marty Barsell-the boys decide to join forces and come up with a way to prove his innocence.  
But just how innocent is Marty Barsell? When Marty admits to being at the scene of the crime, the three friends enlist the help of Zach's annoying sister, Sherry, as well as the sympathetic town eccentric, Ms. Halverton. But can they keep it together long enough to save Marty, and themselves, from imminent catastrophe? Summer on Fire is the story of friendships, and the lines we are asked to cross in order to keep them.
My Review
Personally I find it very hard to find YA books for boys.  And by that I mean books where the main character is a teenage boy.  MG books like that - all over.  YA - not so much.  At least not what I see.  So when I read the summary of Summer on Fire I was excited!  A clearly YA book with three boy main characters. I'm glad I was introduced to it.

The basic premise of the book is the dilemma three boys face when they accidentally start a barn on fire.  Would they tell the truth or let others take the fall?  Great dilemma but honestly I found it to really be more about growing up and realizing how quickly the beliefs you once held can change - especially when it comes to family and friendship.  These three boys were so typical for teenage boys - hang out, pick on each other, support each other in a tough guy kind've way.  But through the events the fire sets off they have to become more than that - and they realize that what they believed about each other all this time was not truly reality.  Or at the least that it may be true but it would only stay that way for awhile before they were all forced to change.

Ok that sounds all fancy - let me give you an example.  Zach knew that the home life for his best Jeff wasn't good, but he kinda saw it with a "that's just how it is" attitude.  After the first he realizes the extent of how this life affects Jeff and his brother Marty - how deep it runs.  He's forced to grow up and accept a new reality.  The same for how he sees his friend Arnie.  He made fun of Arnie and Arnie's mom a lot.  But once again he was forced to realize that this really was true reality and he needed to change his point of view.  It's this something all teenagers have to realize and face and some point in order to truly grow up??  It was nice to see a boy struggle through it. Zach's reaction are all very typical so any boy reading it could buy into it.  They could relate to Zach facing and accepting those changes.

I do have to comment on one thing I personally had to overcome.  At the start of the book Zach makes some comment about the movie The Outsiders.  Because I teach that book and show the movie every year my mind kept trying to set the book in the 1960's instead of the 80's! It was a personally issue because of my background and one I don't think others would have.  It was just a funny thing for me!

Over-all I liked the book and liked seeing how a guy deals with dilemma's like this.  Although most guys would never have to face this specific situation, they would have to deal with change and that makes the book very relateable.

Final thought:  Nice look at some issues YA boys deal with
Best stick-with-you image:  Pushing Arnie in the wheelbarrow
Best for readers who: are YA boys - and girls
Best for ages: 14+


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