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Monday, June 6
My rating: ★★★★½
Publisher: Dutton Books
Date of publication: March 29, 2016
Age: Grades 5 - 8
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Themes: grieving, death, lost, Shakespeare, theater, friendship, love
It's the first real summer since the accident that killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.
You may be surprised at my rating given my usual response to tragic MG fiction. But you know when a book just gets you right in the feels? Heartfelt, emotional, real...gahhhh, this was a good one. A good sad. I will say first, however, a lot of my emotional attachment is due to my personal attachment. Having grown up in Salt Lake City and traveled down to Cedar City many a summer to attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival (which is, in large part, what the book is based on) made this whole book sentimental for me. So I had to like it, at least initially.
It was Condie's fantastic writing and an amazing story that took my love even further. The prose is simple, chapters are short, the text is almost poetic—big contributors to the emotions behind the story (maybe too lyrical in places, for the target audience anyway). The characters themselves were realistic, each having a particular scene or statement that just felt like truth (e.g. Cedar's mom in Act II, Chapter 33—the feels!). The little subplots that contribute to the greater story in subtle, appreciative ways—just added a nice touch. All of it. So wonderful.
So now this brings me to the recommendation. Not every middle-grader is going to like this. No. But the tender-hearted ones, perhaps. Maybe. And I still want people to read it. It just takes the right person, the right mood, Just be prepared for sad. Such good sad. Sigh...I'm still bummed it's over.
Find it at your library or on Amazon