From the Publisher
"Through the openness of the narrative, readers will engage with Lou's adolescent musings, rendered in such precisely fine prose - and in such a gloriously realized setting." The Horn Book
"Elegant. A beautifully written piece about a last summer with a beloved friend." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The relationships of a group of vacationing friends and a loving, multigenerational family in Italy are described in both warm sensory waves nd with a colder, steady current of psychological analysis." Kirkus Reviews
"Banks gives equal attention to the creation of a very real friendship with which many middle grade readers will identify. Will be especially popular with fans of both Katherine Paterson and Cynthia Voigt." VOYA
"In poetic, evocative language, Banks creates a wholly absorbing story . . . will resonate strongly." Booklist
"This is an awesome book." A YALSA Teen YA Galley Reader
Lucrezia looks forward to the summers, when her family leaves the hot city of Rome to join Nonno and Nanna at the beach. Every summer her best friend Ollie comes to stay as well and he and Lucrezia spend their days playing games, making pottery, learning to cook and, of course, swimming, boating, and lazing at the water's edge. One summer, a newcomer named Martin also visits the beach and he and the blonde and beautiful Anna Maria often spend their days with Lucrezia and Ollie. Sometimes Lucrezia feels jealous and is not sure why. Does she have a crush on Martin or is she in love with Ollie? She and Ollie are so close they can almost communicate telepathically, but she decides she loves him as her best and closest friend. Actually, this summer was to be spent touring Northern Europe with their families, but Ollie's father was sent on an assignment so the summer was passed in the usual way. The reader, knowing the change in plans is pivotal, senses a shadow hanging over the young people despite the sunny atmosphere permeating the story. The horrors of modern life and strife are brought home in a sudden and shocking way and Lucrezia must come to terms with tragedy. 2005, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus and Giroux, Ages 10 to 13.
Carolyn Mott Ford
Lucrezia, nicknamed Lukey or Lou, is a 12-year-old Italian girl from Rome. Her best friend is 12-year-old Ollie, who lives in Milan. They meet every summer at her grandparents' summer home and enjoy idyllic adventures under the hot Italian sun until "the summer that shouldn't have been." That summer their adventures are complicated by the arrival of two other young teens, Martin, a neighbor, and Anna Maria, a girl who has not previously been part of the inner circle made up of Lou and Ollie. This summer, as narrated by Lukey, issues of budding sexual attraction and the nature of friendship arise. The four spend their days sunning, swimming, sailing, playing board games, and eating good Italian food. At the end of the summer, a near-death experience caused by male competitiveness occurs. Their survival brings the four closer just as they are set to go their separate ways. Then, like a sudden clap of thunder, in an event completely unforeshadowed, tragedy strikes. Everybody is sad. The remaining three fall out of touch, but life goes on. The setting is exotic. A young reader will learn Italian customs and words. The plot is negligible until the big surprise at the end. Character development is confined to the narrator's pronouncements, not by revelations governed by plot or specific action. The theme centers on typical issues of identity. The big surprise at the end, however, seems like a gimmick designed to give all of their previous interactions Deep Significance. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 2005, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 144p., Ages 12 to 15.
Banks's story has the slightly detached modern-and adult-sensibility of a New Yorker short story: The relationships of a group of vacationing friends and a loving, multigenerational family in Italy are described in both warm sensory waves and with a colder, steady current of psychological analysis. Thirteen-year-old, Rome-born Lucrezia, the keen-eyed narrator, and the half-American, half-Italian Ollie are "friends of the heart," childhood friends who, however different, are inextricably bound. A sensual landscape of a teenage summer on an Italian beach is painted here-a melange of Ping-Pong, flip-flops, sparkling water, slippery brown bodies, light touches, meaningful looks. The magical spell is broken before the story begins, however, as Lucrezia hints at "the summer that shouldn't have been." Until the bitter and shocking end, readers sit as if next to a pin-threatened balloon, cringing at every boat ride, neighborhood intrigue or character's false move, braced for whatever horror is due to unfold. Life, death, love, friendship, superstition, self-discovery and more are examined in this sometimes belabored, sometimes joyful, ultimately tragic story. (Fiction. 12+)
Read an Excerpt
From Friends of the Heart
Ollie and I visited all of Rome together. My mother, Donatella, worked for the government, restoring ceramics, and his mother, Greta, was an art historian. They were best friends. They'd grown up together in Rome. Then Ollie's mother had gone off to England and met his dad. They'd returned to Rome together. And from the day we were born Ollie and I journeyed back in time with our parents, touring ruins, museums, ancient monuments. We often went evenings when the traffic had thinned and the hustle had died down to a quiet shuffle. We hovered beneath overpowering statues of Roman gods who ruled over us, bigger than life. We tossed coins into fountains and made wishes too grand to ever come true. We sat next to the Roman Forum eating "toasts," flat square grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, while Greta told us stories of Julius Caesar. He was another of Rome's great rulers, intelligent, courageous, generous.
"He wasn't beautiful," I remember her saying. "And he was always worried about his baldness, which he tried to hide. But women loved him." Then she recounted how Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, had rolled herself in a carpet and had it taken to Caesar's rooms in order to make his acquaintance. Ollie raised an eyebrow when he heard this and broke out laughing. I laughed, too.
Ollie rarely called me Lucrezia. I was Lukey until we were eight, and then I became just Lou. We were best friends, Ollie and I, amici del cuore, as we Italians say, or, literally, friends of the heart.