The Summer of Broken Things

FTC disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Summer of Broken Things
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Published April 10, 2018 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN 1481417649 (ISBN13: 9781481417648)

About the book

Fourteen-year-old Avery Armisted is athletic, rich, and pretty. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Butts is known as “butt-girl” at school. The two girls were friends as little kids, but that’s ancient history now. So it’s a huge surprise when Avery’s father offers to bring Kayla along on a summer trip to Spain. Avery is horrified that her father thinks he can choose her friends—and make her miss soccer camp. Kayla struggles just to imagine leaving the confines of her small town.

But in Spain, the two uncover a secret their families had hidden from both of them their entire lives. Maybe the girls can put aside their differences and work through it together. Or maybe the lies and betrayal will only push them—and their families—farther apart.


Review

It's difficult to delve too deeply into The Summer of Broken Things without revealing too much of the plot. Suffice to say, fans of Margaret Peterson Haddix's thriller-y Shadow Children series may be disappointed at the shift in style. While intrigue abounds, Avery and Kayla's story is very much grounded in the real world. Avery is self-centered, bratty, and annoying. Kayla is the underdog to Avery's alpha, out of place in a foreign country and in the company of the Armisteds and their extravagant habits. Kayla tries to keep the peace, while Avery sulks and manipulates her father.

Predictably, in the way of high school frenemies and long-distance relationships, Avery's friends seem to abandon her. Rather than befriending Kayla and trying to make the best of the situation--which, spending a summer in Madrid, eating delicious food, sight-seeing, and learning Spanish, doesn't sound terrible to me at all--Avery rebels at every opportunity. She guilt-trips Kayla into covering for her when she decides she's not going along with anyone's plan for her summer. 

Kayla, meanwhile, normally compliant, almost to the point of servility, at first frays easily under the pressure, especially once a secret that involves both girls comes to light. Saddened and angry at what she perceives to be her family's betrayal, she stops video-calling her elderly friends at the nursing home and won't read her mother's many frantic emails. With growing rebellion, however, Kayla begins to blossom. Though she's embarrassed by how little she knows of Spanish and how terrible her accent is, she makes friends at school and begins to discover more things about herself and her family that she never knew.

Haddix's gift for portraying the emotions of young people keeps this book on track, even as its central characters seem to unravel. A jarring and dramatic climax, while it doesn't quite end happily ever after, forces the girls to face reality, however harsh, and cope with it as best they can. Don't let the brightness of the cover lull you into thinking that The Summer of Broken Things is some fun, romantic summer beach read. While it has its light-hearted moments--cute European exchange students!--the core of this novel is about family, trust, and forgiveness. Expect to shed a tear or two, especially towards the end.


About the author

Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the Children of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for the Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at haddixbooks.com