The Best Worst Summer

Bloomsbury. May 2021. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781547601509.
Gr 4-6–Peyton is convinced that the summer her family moves from Minneapolis to Lake Springs, a small town four hours away, will be the worst summer of her life. But when her mom gets a job offer that’s too good to pass up, Peyton and her family leave everything behind—including Lily, Peyton’s closest friend. The two girls did everything together, and Peyton is nervous about starting sixth grade without her. When Peyton finds an old shoebox buried in her new backyard, things begin to change. Expecting it to contain a long-buried family pet, the box is actually a time capsule from 1989 that was put together by two other close friends, Jessica and Melissa. Along with pop culture souvenirs, Peyton finds some notes, one reading, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me” and another in secret code. The notes inspire Peyton to learn what happened between the girls. Chapters alternate between Peyton’s search and her developing friendship with a boy in a wheelchair named Lucas, and the saga of Jessica and Melissa, who were best friends until a situation in Melissa’s family results in their abrupt separation. One weakness is that the chapters focusing on Jessica, who was adopted from South Korea, and Melissa, whose father is angry and abusive, are underdeveloped. The puzzle pieces fit neatly—if somewhat improbably—together by the novel’s end. Aside from Jessica, all other main characters are cued as white.
VERDICT A story about the power of friendship with fun references to New Kids on the Block, pay phones, and beepers. This novel will appeal to readers experiencing big transitions—whether geographical or emotional.

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