Review: Summer Days, Starry Nights by Vikki VanSickle
Source: Paperback, Published June 1, 2013 by Scholastic Canada
A famous rock star, a family secret and a boy with a great smile make for one unforgettable summer.
It’s 1962, and thirteen-year-old Reenie Starr comes alive the minute guests begin to arrive at her family’s summer resort. She dreams of the day she can run Sandy Shores, and she spends her time helping out at the resort, swimming, climbing trees, and singing under the stars.
One day, Reenie’s mother announces that she thinks the resort could use some entertainment. She invites Gwen, her best friend’s almost-grown daughter, to come and teach a dance class. Although Gwen seems sad and remote, Reenie’s thrilled to have her there.
As Reenie starts to learn more about the world beyond Sandy Shores, she comes up with a plan that could really put it on the map. She also finds herself caught between the simpler world of her childhood and all of the wonderful new discoveries (boys) and heartaches (boys) that growing up can bring. Reenie thought she wanted Sandy Shores to never change, but after this summer nothing will ever be the same again.
With the same humour and insight that she brought to the acclaimed Words That Start With B, Vikki VanSickle expertly captures those lazy, hazy, crazy days of the last summer before high school. Though set in a different time, Summer Days, Starry Nights is sure to resonate with all young readers on the verge of adolescence.
Vikki VanSickle’s beautiful debut novel, Words That Start with B struck such a chord with me, and fantastically evolved into a three-book series that I recommend when I can. Now, stepping away from the contemporary Clarissa Delaney series, VanSickle has brought us readers a coming-of-age novel set in small town Ontario during the 1960s. Taking me back to my own summer reading memories of Kit Pearson, Paula Danziger, Judy Blume, and Jean Van Leeuwen, Summer Days, Starry Nights is a thoughtful and beautifully explored Bildungsroman featuring a terrific narrator named Reenie Starr.
With a number of more momentous topics being addressed- such as losing faith in a parent, talk about maternal depression, unplanned pregnancy and women’s choices- I think this novel will appeal as much to older readers as it does to younger readers. In an interview with The National Post, VanSickle was asked why, even though she touches upon arguably universal themes of independence, young love, etc., she set her novel in the 1960s. And in her answer, the author replies that that hugely agitated time period adds significance to most everything, including Reenie’s desire to take over the family cottage business. She is not the oldest sibling, nor is she the son, so what are her options? In a contemporary time period, VanSickle notes, these problems wouldn’t carry as much “weight or relevance, but in the early 1960’s, the stakes were much higher”.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it for readers who love a solid coming-of-age story. If you’ve been a fan of VanSickle’s Clarissa series, then I think you will also love this. And if you like any of the authors I mentioned a few paragraphs up, then do try this. Not only tackling some serious issues, but also with a little bit of Dirty Dancing-type nostalgia and the potential of a promising first love, Summer Days, Starry Nights is summer reading at its best.
Read some fabulous Canadian lit this summer!
Note: This review, written by me, originally appeared on Fabbity Fab Book Reviews. Minor edits have been made.