Thursday, January 23, 2014

Three Bird Summer

Three Bird Summer
Sarah St. Antoine
3.5 / 5

To Be Published May 13, 2014

First Sentences
"Here's what I know about girls.  They like talking and combing their hair with their fingers, and they move in careful packs, like wolves."
Publisher's Description:
For as long as he can remember, Adam and his parents have spent their summers at his grandmother’s rustic cabin on Three Bird Lake. But this year will be different. There will be no rowdy cousins running around tormenting Adam. There will be no Uncle John or Aunt Jean. And there'll be no Dad to fight with Mom. This year, the lake will belong just to Adam.

But then Adam meets Alice, the girl next door, who seems to want to become friends. Alice looks just like the aloof, popular girls back home—what could he and she possibly have in common?

Turns out, Alice isn't like the girls back home. She's frank, funny, and eager for adventure. And when Adam's grandma starts to leave strange notes in his room—notes that hint at a hidden treasure somewhere at the lake and a love from long ago—Alice is the one person he can rely on to help solve the mysteries of Three Bird Lake.
Dear Reader,

This was a Netgalley offering which I selected because I thought it looked like it had promise as a good, relatable YA novel.  And it was!  Ultimately a very cute story about coming of age.  It was a quick, summery sort of read.  I think I would have enjoyed it more were I a pre-teen, but it definitely had its merits, and brought me back to those idyllic, endless summer days of my adolescence.

The book's title is very apt: while it ostensibly refers to eponymous Three Bird Lake, where twelve-year-old Adam spends the summer before eighth grade, it also of course speaks of the three females with whom Adam interacts during this life-changing summer.  Used to a cabin filled with relatives and particularly rambunctious teenage boy cousins, this quiet summer is entirely new to Adam.  His parents have recently separated, which means that he is to spend his vacation with only his mother and his grandmother.  The third female doesn't come along right away, but she is perhaps the most life-altering: Alice, who becomes Adam's best friend and begrudged love interest as the season runs its course.

At first, I had a difficult time liking the main character, largely because he felt very distant and emotionless.  He lumped all girls his age into one enigmatic group that he would never figure out, and left it at that.  Meanwhile, while he didn't exactly sound lonely, he didn't seem to have many friends to speak of, either.  So I was a little lost from the start.  However, I got the feeling over the book, as the reader became more and more familiar with Adam, that he was in fact a bit autistic.  I think he had to categorize people in order to deal with them, and I could see him begin to discern people from groups as he got to know his new friend, and even his mother and grandmother, better.

There were some cute touches in the book; the friendship that develops between Adam and Alice is endearing.  While it's sometimes difficult to understand Alice's point of view, as the book focuses solely on Adam, you can begin to see why their relationship works as well as it does.  It's not just because they were thrown together as the only kids their own age in a remote lake setting.

I also enjoyed the way Adam began to know and understand his grandmother throughout the summer.  It seems he begins to see her as a separate and whole person, which is a true milestone of maturation.  At the same time, as he starts to recognize her personality and her frailties, he also learns more about who he is and what he is capable of.  While I thought it a bit weird that the kid couldn't paddle a canoe by himself at first, I think maybe that was more a prejudice of my own than poor writing: I grew up going canoeing with my family, and therefore feel like I always knew how to paddle.  But it was another metaphor for Adam's developing independence and his growth into an adult.  I think there were many things in this book which were well-written.  I enjoyed all of the subtle metaphors and the rather odd but strong personalities.  One of my favorite touches was the carved animals on the mantelpiece in the cabin, which perhaps made me relate to Adam even more: it was also his favorite!

I think this is a good YA novel.  It deals with some issues and gives a great example of growing up.  While it was a bit on the light side for me, I can understand that is because I lean much more towards "adult" fiction.  Like I said before -- if I were twelve, I think I really would have gotten something out of this book.

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