Summer at a lake: what could be better for four rising seniors? Except that the girls are being dragged to South Carolina by their mothers, old friends who rally around Scarlett and Skyler’s mom when her marriage hits the rocks. Scarlett, a recovering cutter, would rather be home with her boyfriend, but her twin, Skyler, is grateful for an excuse to miss summer softball. Amelia Grace, who accidentally kissed a girl in front of her church, is glad she isn’t being sent to conversion camp. And Ellie is a serious tennis player who could really use some friends; she’s hoping for some kind of “Ya-Ya Sisterhood club for female empowerment/shenanigans.” Allen (A Taxonomy of Love) tips her hat to the summer sisterhood tradition she’s working in while updating its inclusivity: Ellie is Muslim, Skyler has arthritis, and Amelia Grace wants a church that accepts her. The characters’ alternating first-person voices are distinctive, the writing is sharp, and messages about honesty and being oneself add ballast to this satisfying multigenerational story of four girls finding the people they need. Ages 13–up. Agent: Susan Hawk, Upstart Crow Literary. (May)
**STARRED REVIEW** "To Allen’s credit, the story covers potentially toxic elements with grace, humor, and maturity, never getting bogged down or growing maudlin. Instead, it stays firmly rooted in the gentle affection among the characters and their sturdy humanity, which never falters." —School Library Journal
"Allen's well-rounded, realistic teen characters grow throughout, and she interlaces the story with complicated relationships that reveal each character's idea of friendship. . . An engaging coming-of-age story."—Kirkus Review
"The characters’ alternating first-person voices are distinctive, the writing is sharp, and messages about honesty and being oneself add ballast to this satisfying multigenerational story of four girls finding the people they need."—Publishers Weekly
Gr 7–10—When Scarlett and Skyler's mother discovers that their father is seeing another woman, she and the sisters leave for the lake house where she spent summers in her youth. They are joined by a few of her oldest friends and two of their teenage daughters, Ellie and Amelia Grace. The four girls knew each other once but have since grown apart, so spending the summer together brings awkwardness but also opportunity. Inspired by journals left behind by their moms' generation, they form a club to play poker, drink Southern Comfort, wear pearls, be completely honest, and accomplish something impossible before the end of the summer. Narration cycles between the four girls, each with a distinct and consistent voice. Sometimes one girl is given a full chapter and backstory. Sometimes a single event is seen through multiple perspectives. It all works effectively for moving the story forward and demonstrating the challenges and growth of the individual characters. Skyler is a fantastic athlete but juvenile arthritis is threatening to end her softball career. Scarlett, whose forearms bear scars of self-harm, is struggling to hold on to a relationship despite a troubled past. The sisters' love, concern, and frustration with one another feels strong and authentic, while one friend, Amelia Grace, is trying to reconcile her homosexuality with her conservative Christian faith, and the other, homeschooler Ellie, faces up to her critical lack of social skills. VERDICT To Allen's credit, the story covers potentially toxic elements with grace, humor, and maturity, never getting bogged down or growing maudlin. Instead, it stays firmly rooted in the gentle affection among the characters and their sturdy humanity, which never falters.—Amelia Jenkins, Juneau Public Library, AK
When their mothers, who were sorority sisters, decide to reunite in South Carolina, four high school girls find themselves spending a summer together.
All four girls are struggling with something: Scarlett is being pressured by her boyfriend to have sex; her twin, softball player Skyler, has arthritis and is unsure how to tell her parents that she wants to change her meds; Amelia Grace was looking forward to being a junior youth minister but after accidentally kissing a girl in front of her congregation feels pressure to hide part of who she is; and Jameelah, who goes by Ellie, is a tennis player who struggles with body image and belonging as a biracial (white/Indian) Muslim girl who passes for white. They all make a pact to “accomplish something impossible before the end of the summer.” By that point they will learn more about themselves and one another and delve deeply into what they each want and what they must do to achieve it. The story alternates between each girl’s first-person viewpoint. Readers learn about each teen’s thoughts, personal ambitions, and fears as well as events from their pasts. Allen’s well-rounded, realistic teen characters grow throughout, and she interlaces the story with complicated relationships that reveal each character’s idea of friendship. Scarlett and Skyler are white and Jewish; Amelia Grace is also white.
An engaging coming-of-age story. (Fiction. 14-18)