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Book Review: Indian Summer by Tracy Richardson

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Twilight got your tween reading, which is great. But let’s be honest here, it isn’t the best form of literature available out there. And while your tween might not be ready (or willing) to give Shakespeare a try at this point in her life, parents can continue feeding this new-found interest for reading by picking up more books that are not only geared at tweens, but are well written, have an intriguing plot and whose main character is relatable to them.

Tracy Richardson’s Indian Summer is exactly that.

Marcie is a twelve-year old young lady who is facing the prospect of a long, boring summer as she and her brother head out to their grandparents’ lake cottage. But as a development project threatens to limit access to the beautiful shores of Lake Pappakeechee to only a few rich families, Marcie, her older brother Eric and their neighbour, Al, try to rally up the neighbours in a bid to save Lake Pappakeechee.

While they get very little help from a resigned population, there is someone who is trying to help Marcie, if only the latter can figure out what is going on in time to stop construction from starting. Because help is coming from a rather unsettling source: visions that Marcie is having from a time long past, which could hold the key to the one and only way of stopping a century-old forest from being cut down.

Things are all the more complicated that the person leading the development project, Mr. Swyndall, is the father of a new-found friend. Kaitlyn Swyndall is one of popular girls from her middle school; being alone at Lake Pappakeechee with no other companion their age around, Marcie and Kaitlyn develop something of a friendship.  Will it survive Marcie’s challenge to Mr. Swyndall’s development project?

The other potential victim of Marcie’s challenge is her parents’ jobs, as both teach at the university where Mr. Swyndall is president. Needless to say, Marcie’s parents are having a hard time balancing their commitment to the environment, their support for their daughter and the importance of keeping relations healthy with their boss. In the meantime, Marcie has a hard time understanding why her parents aren’t more supportive of both her and the project.

Marcie is a good kid, albeit not a perfect one, a reflection of the family that raised her. While a little unreal in a world filled with horror stories about broken families and harsh intra-family disputes, it’s a reminder of what families should be – strong, loving, loyal yet imperfect.

But this is what makes this book particularly interesting, and gives it the strong potential of touching a chord in tweens: it’s realistic while having a touch of the fantastic (i.e. Marcie’s visions).

Indian Summer is also an interesting first glance and timid exploration of inter-class dynamics. Stereotypes are gently addressed, perhaps in a somewhat transparent way, but still realistically so. After all, while twelve-year-olds are extremely intelligent and are actively seeking to understand the world around them with their ever-increasing capacity to analyze, they can’t comprehend the depths of the social class divide. Especially since adults don’t even understand it fully.

If you’re the kind of parent who likes to read what your tween reads, rest assured: Indian Summer is a book you will also like reading. Although you will probably finish it very quickly. While the quality of the writing is high, the style is kept relatively simple, respecting a tween’s intelligence while keeping the story readable.

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