Saturday, August 14, 2021

Shark Summer

Marcks, Ira. Shark Summer
May 25th 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

In this graphic novel, we meet Gayle, who has moved to Martha's Vineyard from Boston so that her mother can open up an ice cream store. She had been the star of her local soft ball team, until a bad play caused her to be injured and to be at odds with her new best friend, Alex. It's summer, and with her arm in a cast, Gayle is not in a good mood. Her mother, however is. There is a major feature film being produced in their seaside town, and her mother thinks she will get a small role in it that will pay well. While she is trying out, Gayle tries to paint their new storefront, but isn't having much luck. She does run into Elijah, the son of a reporter covering the filming, with whom she attended school in Boston. He is a budding cinematographer himself, and under the pretense of getting material for his father, asks Gayle to take him around the island. He has a moped, and the two cover a lot of ground. It turns out that Elijah's father doesn't pay a lot of attention to him, and Gayle's mother gives up the idea of opening her business for the chance to earn a decent income at the local hotel... where Elijah is staying and which is owned by Alex's mother. When Elijah finds out about a contest for young filmmakers with a large cash prize, he and Gayle want to enter, but struggle to find a topic for their film. Aided by a special effects guru working on the film and eventually by Alex and other friends, Gayle and Elijah investigate a local mystery that not everyone in town wants uncovered. 

Graphic novels sometimes don't have very involved plots, but there is plenty going on in Shark Summer. There's friend drama with Alex, a travel guide with Elijah, a historical mystery, and a new friend. Add movie special effects, family financial circumstances, and the fact that this seems to all take place in the mid 1970s when movie cameras took actual film, and it all adds up to an interesting graphic novel not unlike Michael Beil's Summer at Forsaken Lake, albeit on Martha's Vineyard instead of Lake Erie. 

Of course, the inclusion of a Jaws- like film will draw readers to this immediately, but the Atwood Terror, and the myriad reactions of the local residents to this historical figure being discussed gives this a deeper plotline. Even though the text is not super dense, the story is well developed, and we get a good feel for the town, the characters, and the importance of rapidly fading local history. 

Readers who like mysteries that delve into the past like Chalfoun's The Treasure of Maria Mamoun , Korman's Notorious, and Cummings' Trace will enjoy this graphic novel mystery, adn may even be motivated to go hunt down some elderberry ice cream to go along with it. 

 Ms. Yingling

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