Friday, April 4, 2014

The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz

I really enjoyed Calli Be Gold, so I was excited to hear that Ms. Hurwitz had another book. It looks like she's going to stick to the niche of the ordinary girl, at least for now, and I can always use some more stories in this genre, not to mention she does an excellent job of capturing exactly what readers want in a book like this.

Nina wonders what happened to her family. After her grandmother's death a year ago her lawyer parents have turned into workaholics, her older brother is never around, and her best friend is drawing farther and farther away - or were they ever really friends at all? It looks like a long, boring summer before she's plunged into the scary world of high school. Then, inspired by a teacher and her grandmother's memory, Nina makes a small decision; she will do 65 good things, one for each day left of summer. As she does her secret good deeds, things as simple as a compliment or watering a neighbor's flowers, she starts to realize that her little sparks of happiness have set off something bigger in her neighborhood.

As editor Wendy Lamb says in the introduction, readers who want to "Take a break from dystopian/apocalyptic/zombie tales and read this warmhearted story" will be satisfied and delighted. There are some sniffly moments as Nina deals with her grief over her grandmother's death, the sweet excitement of her first kiss, the hilarious reactions of her wacky neighbor and an overwhelming sense of hope and a belief that small things can make a difference. It's not all sunshine and flowers; Nina does some serious thinking about herself and how she's gone through life so far and makes a conscious decision to reach out and make an effort to connect. Some of the neighbors are dealing with real, painful issues and there are a lot of growing pains for Nina as well. Not all her good things work out the way she expects and some things can't be fixed. But Hurwitz manages to invest her realistic characters and story with an overwhelming sense of hope and joy as Nina grows into herself and perseveres in her good deeds.

Verdict: Middle grade readers looking for an inspirational, realistic book with a happy ending will devour this story. Like Calli, Nina is an average girl who finds her own niche in the world and discovers she can make a difference in a small way. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780385371063; Published April 2014 by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House; ARC provided by author; Purchased for the library

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