Thursday, June 02, 2022

Summer of June

Sumner, Jamie. The Summer of June
May 31st 2022 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

June and her mother have always been a team. Her father was never involved, and there have been a couple of boyfriends, including a violent one who caused them to leave New Orleans and end up in a suburb of Nashville. They have a small home, and the mother works at the local library as the head of teen services. As summer approaches, June wants to make a change and get her anxiety under control, and starts by shaving her head so that she won't be able to pull out her hair when she is stressed. Her mother, ever supportive, shaves her head as well, which doesn't go over well with Ms. Tandy, her boss. June often comes to the library with her mother and helps out with a variety of tasks, and finds this to be calming and safe, so when a boy her age, Homer Juarez, starts showing up and showing an interest in her, this feels vaguely threatening. So does the appearance of Sam, a library computer tech person who shows an interest in her mother, but reminds her of the violent boyfriend. June also meets Luis, an older man who is interested in gardening, and Nix, an older woman who helps with the library programming. When June overhears girls from her school who have given her problems discussing how cute Hector is, and finds out that he attends a local private school, she doubts his motivations in hanging out with her and is surprised when he invites her and her mother to dinner. His mother teaches at the community college, and his father teaches at the private school, which is the only way they can afford the tuition. Daniel, a coworker of Hector's mother, is also at the dinner, and June decides he would make a much better boyfriend than Sam, so tries to arrange meetings with her mother. When Ms. Tandy gets angry about plants inside the library and throws them out, June and Hector start a secret garden with them on a hidden corner of library property with Luis' help. Even though she has been in therapy for a while, and has had limited success with several different medications, dealing with her anxiety is an ongoing process, and June still struggles to navigate it, even though she is determined to "fix herself". How will she deal with the changes in her world?
Strengths: Since returning from the pandemic, my students have all been making interesting fashion statements, so they won't even blink at June's new hair do. It's good that she has supportive people around her, especially her mother, who is doing everything she can to allay June's anxiety and making sure that she gets help in dealing with it productively. The issues with the different boyfriends are dealt with realistically, and Sam seems like a really great guy, even though June doesn't react well to him. Homer is a great kid, and his interest in June is very sweet. The library sounds like such a fun place to work, even with Ms. Tandy in charge, and it's great that June is allowed to come with her mother to work. Too bad it's not the same library where Drew comes to work with his mother in Bishop's The Things You Can't Say! There's a nice twist at the end with the mother's employment. 
Weaknesses: While the reason for Ms. Tandy's difficult behavior is explained late in the book, I didn't appreciate that it was so deeply attached to her "old lady smell" and expectations of professional performance. June's mother doesn't have a library degree, but is the best teen librarian they've ever had? Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of Ms. Tandy is her hiring practices? It just felt a little personal and... insulting. You can be a good librarian and be older and dress professionally. At least this stopped short of putting her in embroidered sweatshirts and making fun of them. 
What I really think: This is similar enough to this author's Tune it Out, One Kid's Trash, and Roll With It that fans will be glad to read it, and is a bit like a mash up between Tan's A Kind of Paradise (spending a lot of time in a library) and Yeh's The Way to Bea (navigating anxiety).
 Ms. Yingling

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