I’ve been catching up on my backlog of books to write about. Many of them have a summer theme, like this one (and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, which I reviewed last week).
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia is an award-winning middle grades novel from last year. It tells the story of three sisters in 1968 who go from their home in Brooklyn to get to know their absent mother in Oakland. Unfortunately, their mother, a poet who is involved in the Black Panthers, proves hard to get to know and the girls encounter a world with very different ideas about what it means to be black than the ones they knew at home.
Everything I had read about this book made it sound great and I wasn’t disappointed. Not only is the story, narrated from the oldest sister’s point of view, beautifully told with sharp writing and a great voice, but the plot interweaves a complex set of elements. Characters themselves are left messy enough for my taste – the middle sister continues to annoy her older sister and never fully pays for some bad behavior and the mother’s behavior is explained but never fully redeemed – while the plot is brought together neatly, connecting several unexpected pieces. That’s just the sort of narrative I like – with wiggle room for real people to be real, but a strong, resolved story. You wouldn’t think that you could find such a gentle middle grades novel about the Black Panthers, but there it is.