Review | All Summer Long by Hope Larson

School's out for summer and we can't wait to do ALL THE THINGS we have planned with our best friends. How many can relate to this feeling? Take your mind back to that summer between middle school and high school and ponder on how excited you were to finish middle school. There may have been nervousness looming about entering high school, but there was time to worry about that later. All you thought about was doing something amazing to commemorate THAT special summer. But what if your friends decided they had better things to do? In All Summer Long by Hope Larson, I took a trip down memory lane with my daughter as we read about a similar situation.

All Summer Long  tells the story of 13-year-old Bina, and the awesome summer she almost didn't have before entering high school. After her best friend Austin drops the news that he’ll be headed to camp for the summer, Bina is at a loss. Who will she spend the summer making memories and updating her “summer fun index” with? But as the days of summer pass and their friendship begins to strain, Bina must learn to make her own fun and find her own way in this quirky coming-of-age graphic novel.

Like many of us, the summer before high school comes with quite a few growing pains. It's that awkward time between childhood and becoming a teenager that changes everything. The things you and your friends once loved are no longer "cool" to do. Bina and Austin are realizing that they don't have as much in common as they once thought they did. Bina's impressed that Austin's mom arranges music soundtracks for a living and also covets his sister's music collection. Meanwhile, these things couldn't matter less to Austin. There's a sudden rift in Austin and Bina's relationship happening that frustrates her, leading her to hang with Austin's sister and embrace the things she likes without him. It's not often that I see opposite-sex platonic friendships shown in my YA Lit reading, so I was intrigued to see how this would play out. And I was not disappointed.

As a mother of a 13-year-old who is reminded of those teenage "growing pains" each day through our talks and time spent together, I was happy to read along with my daughter to gauge her thoughts. She's an artistic (yet easily bored) creative just like Bina who likes expressing herself through her painting and random song lyrics. Reading All Summer Long was a reminder to both of us that it's okay to march to the beat of your own drum. Also, embracing change can be overwhelming for anyone at any age. We are growing into who we are meant to be everyday and those changes being made within us will affect everything around us-- including our friendships, the way we see the world, and the decisions we make. In All Summer Long, Hope Larson does a great job of illustrating this by introducing us to a protagonist we could both relate to in Bina, and crafting a story many of us have experienced at some point in our lives.

I'll also admit that finding this story in the format of a 2-color paneled graphic novel was the icing on the cake. Around my house, children are more likely to devour a book on my desk if it's a graphic novel. This easy-to-digest, well-paced graphic novel made for a quick read with both me and my daughter. We do both agree, however, that we would have loved to see more from Bina's self-discovery at the end. That would have been beautiful to see bloom!

I recommend All Summer Long to anyone who enjoys reading graphic novels and coming-of-age stories. The lessons about friendships, growing pains, and self-discovery will resonate with teens and adults as well. To grab a copy of your own, click here.

Many thanks to First Second Books for an ARC of All Summer Long by Hope Larson.


Will you be checking out All Summer Long? 

Did you face any challenges while transitioning to those awkward teenage years? 

Let's chat all about them in the comments!

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