Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Firefly Summer

Matson, Morgan. The Firefly Summer
May 2, 2023 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ryanna's mother, a young actress, dies when she was three, and so it's always been just her and her screenwriter father. Recently, he has remarried, and Ryanna doesn't mind her new stepmother, Ginger, at all, especially since she is also her pediatrician! The family is all set for a regular, boring summer in California when job plans look like they are taking her father out of the country to work on a new film, and a letter arrives from her mother's parents, the Van Camps. They would like Ryanna to spend a summer with them "while she still can". Ryanna's not thrilled with the idea, but when she sees a snapshot of her mother at her age, she is intrigued and decides to head off to the Poconos to stay with them. She's in for a bit of a shock when their home is actually a summer camp that hasn't been operational since the 1990s (it's actually where her parents met, filming a camp film!), and is hosting four cousins and a number of aunts and uncles! Ryanna is supposed to jump into the lake with all her clothes on first thing, and is just overwhelmed by the different circumstances, but her grandmother convinces her to stay. The camp is in danger of being torn down, since the grandfather bought the land from his best friend who owned a camp across the lake on a handshake sort of agreement. Since his friend has died, and the grandfather can't find the paper, the friend's son is taking possession and putting up condos. His son used to be friends with Ryanna's cousins, but is now a persona non grata. Ryanna loves detective books, so when her grandmother gives her one that belonged to her mother, she is surprised and delighted to see notes from her mother. These end up leading to several treasure maps, and Ryanna hopes that she will be able to find the deed so the family can stay at the camp. Will she and her cousins be able to find this, and will Ryanna gain new insight into her own mother, her family, and what happened between her grandparents and her father?
Strengths: Who wouldn't want to spend time at a summer camp without a camp agenda? Ryanna and her cousins get to hang out at the lake, go to the crafts cabin, and eat in a mess hall, but don't have to do the boring things, like swimming lessons and making lanyards against their will. I found it fascinating that the adult children of the Van Camps all had jobs in professions where they could take the summer off and return to the Poconos! The treasure map is a solid mystery and the stakes are high. The interpersonal differences between the newly introduced cousins offer just enough tension. This reminded me a tiny bit of Eulberg's The Best Worst Summer, with all of the 1990s pop culture references to when Ryanna's mom was growing up. Definitely a fun camp story with a twist. 
Weaknesses: I had trouble keeping the cousins, aunts, and uncles straight. 
What I really think: This is a very solid middle school story, but the cover looks a little young to me. I think even Young Adult books have more of a cartoon style now, but I'm not sure if my students get that quite yet! I will purchase a copy for people who like summer stories like Greenwald's Welcome to Dog Beach, Hurwitz's Welcome to Renn Lake, and Berne's Shabbat Sabotage

I'm still a little sad that I was never asked to spend the summer working on my grandmother's dairy farm with my cousins. We lived a half hour away, but my mother didn't want to "bother" anyone with me. I'm sure my cousins who HAD to work on the farm would have been glad to get away, but it looked like such fun. I was fourth from the youngest of 38 cousins, and never really got to know any of them very well. 

Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment