The Year Without a Summer - Review

The Year Without a Summer by Arlene Mark

Out August 16! 

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Explosive volcanic eruptions are cool, really, cool. They inject ash into the stratosphere and deflect the sun’s rays. When eighth grader Jamie Fulton learns that snow fell in June in his hometown because of an eruption on the other side of the world, he’s psyched! He could have snowboarded if he’d lived back in 1815 during the year without a summer.

Clara Montalvo, who recently arrived at Jamie’s school after surviving Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, has a different take all this. She is astounded—and disturbed—by Jamie’s frenzied enthusiasm for what she considers an obvious disaster. The teens’ battling arguments cause science class disruption and create academic trouble: Jamie’s headed for a failing grade in science, and may not even graduate from eighth grade; Clara’s scholarship hopes are dashed. And school isn’t the only place where Jamie and Clara are facing hardship: as they quarrel whether natural disasters can be beneficial, their home lives are also unraveling. Uncertainty about Jamie’s wounded brother returning from Afghanistan and Clara’s unreachable father back in Puerto Rico forces the two vulnerable teens to share their worries and sadness. As their focus shifts from natural disasters to personal calamities to man-made climate changes, the teens take surprising steps that astonish them. Ultimately, through hard work and growing empathy for each other, as well as for their classmates’ distress over the climate change affecting their lives, Jamie and Clara empower themselves and the people they touch.

A historical fiction middle grade story that focuses on natural disasters, with environmental concerns woven in with two 8th grade protagonists. Jamie - with parents who are very hard on him in regards to his inability to care for anything other than the snowboarding team (like grades) and Clara whose family moved to the states from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. 

A lot of middle school problems that are common and something that students can relate to. A lot of topics are covered in the story. You do learn that the title of the book came from a catastrophic, real event, the 1815 Indonesian volcano that spewed enough ash to change the climate for many countries. 

A story that student who enjoy historical fiction/environmental issues will enjoy. Also anyone struggling with parents who they feel are "hard on them" but essentially just parenting and not wanting them to waste their potential.

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