Skip to main content

The Summer I Learned to Fly

Review

The Summer I Learned to Fly

When you're young, summer often feels like a lifetime --- an eternity filled with expectations that are too rarely fulfilled. No one knows that feeling better than 13-year-old Drew Robin Solo.

Drew is looking forward to spending the summer helping her widowed mom at the family's gourmet cheese shop in southern California. There are only a couple of problems. First, the year is 1986, and customers used to Kraft Singles and string cheese might not yet be ready for her mom's Gorgonzola and Brie. So she's always working and worrying. Second, cheese shop employee Nick, the gorgeous surfer/biker boy on whom Drew has her first serious crush, has gotten himself a girlfriend. Drew's heart is quietly breaking every time she helps Nick make his homemade pasta at the shop.

Drew loves her little family --- and her extended cheese shop and neighborhood "family" of loving grown-ups, not to mention her beloved pet rat Hum, whom she carries everywhere. But she has never had a close friend her own age, the kind who really understands her, whom she can understand and maybe even help.

All that starts to change when she meets Emmett Crane, a boy who appreciates cheese --- and understands rats --- as much as Drew herself. Drew discovers Emmett when she realizes that he's been taking leftover cheese she leaves in the alley behind the shop each night. But where does Emmett come from? Where does he live? What kinds of secrets is he hiding? Not to mention Drew's increasingly suspicious-acting mom?

Dana Reinhardt has a gift for developing complex, sympathetic characters, and Drew Robin Solo is no exception. Drew's summer marks the bounds, in many ways, behind childhood and adulthood, between innocence and understanding. "I wondered how it was," Drew thinks, "that I could feel both empty, like these streets, and yet so full at the same time. And those weren't the only contrasting poles inside me. I felt sad and happy. Scared and exhilarated. I felt young and old."

This in-between time, however, is ripe for discovery. Drew discovers a notebook that gives her more insight into her late father's desires and dreams. She learns that a friendship can be more important than a crush. And she realizes that her mother is an independent woman with a life of her own.

At the beginning of the novel, Drew feels --- and in many ways is --- as lonely as her last name implies. But through her friendship with Emmett, she glimpses dozens of new possibilities and ways to connect with others who need her help and delight in her company. Through her relationships, and over the course of an all-important summer, Drew learns how to have a friend --- and how to be one.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 12, 2011

The Summer I Learned to Fly
by Dana Reinhardt

  • Publication Date: July 10, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ember
  • ISBN-10: 0385739559
  • ISBN-13: 9780385739559