Julia and Eliza are best friends, spending the summer together. Julia’s mother is serving in the National Guard and Julia spends all of her time trying not to think about what could happen. So the girls lose themselves in their summer, hanging out at the resort where Eliza’s father works. But when they meet a new boy, neither one of them is prepared for what it does to their friendship.
Nora Raleigh Baskin delivers a poignant look at the way a first crush can come between best friends and the importance of hanging on to the time you have as a kid before rushing into growing up.
The thing that I liked most about The Summer Before Boys is that it deals with a mother that is shipped away for the military, and this is not a topic I have read about before (nor one that I have seen covered by many books at all). It is a very fitting story with the amount of conflict that exists in our world today, and reading this made me wonder why there weren’t more books that dealt with this topic in particular.
Along with Julia’s mother being gone due to the National Guard, she is also dealing with the moment when you start noticing the opposite sex. Nora Raleigh Baskin did an excellent job of portraying those first feelings, when a girl likes a boy and mistakenly gives up time with friends because of that feeling you get when you’re around said boy. Very young readers may not connect as much with Julia if they haven’t gone through the boy phase yet, but anyone that has will instantly think of her as a sister or younger version of themselves.
Eliza is the one left behind, but it’s Eliza’s house they are at for the summer because Julia’s mom is gone and her dad has to work. Eliza’s family has access to a resort (very near their house) where Eliza’s dad works, so the girls have many of their adventures there, which is a fun setting for a few young girls (I particularly liked the lady in the giftshop).
Along with the summer story we are given facts about women in the military through the eyes of Julia, who researches about this topic because she’s worried about her mom. This keeps the story connected to the military aspect while we are caught up in Julia’s boy troubles – a very nicely done balance between the two.
The Summer Before Boys captures that young feeling you have when you start to grow up and notice things around you.