Last November I found myself in Boston for the annual NCTE conference. I love this conference, but let's be honest -- one of the huge perks of going is so I can fangirl all over the place like a... uh... fangirl? (Shut up, it's Monday.)
Anyway, because of Teachers Write! I already knew that Gae Polisner was a seriously rockstar kind of chick -- like, you guys, she may be one of the few remaining reasons I even use FaceBook. I prefer Twitter, but since all Gae's funniest moments seem to happen on FaceBook, I've decided to stick around a while. She makes me laugh, and I can use more laughter in my life.
Also, she is a brilliant YA author. (I'm a little jealous.) How do I know this?
Let's go back to Boston at NCTE, shall we?
I posted on some form of social media (I've slept since then, give me a break) that I was sad to have missed Gae's book signing session, you know, because she's awesome and maybe if I stand close enough to her I can pick up on some of her wondrous writing juju.
She posted back that she happened to have one little ol' arc of The Summer of Letting Go still, and would I like it.
Luckily we both happened to be hanging out in the hotel lounge (I was working, she was rubbing elbows with hoity-toity's because that's what rockstar authors do), and after spinning around and around each other crazily we managed to bump into one another.
The stars in the heavens sang, y'all.
Okay, well maybe not. (No really, they did.)
We talked about our boys and our dogs and I'm not even sure what else, and she said she'd bring the arc to her session the next morning for me.
|Each word, every interaction, speaks to the heart of what it is like to grow up a mixed-up teen in a very mixed-up world.|
And she did, with additional Polisner scribbles added as a lovely bonus. I consider it a work of art. And not just because it's so stinking cute, either.
Gae is as empathetic a writer of Young Adult fiction as she is in person. She is kind and true and all the very best bits of her sing out in her writing. I gobbled up The Summer of Letting Go on my plane ride home to Dallas, Texas, only setting it down long enough to walk off the plane and begrudgingly talk with my husband on the ride home because really -- Just let me read! (Sorry, Husband, you know I love you.)
In this book, Francesca (known as Beans to her family), was supposed to be watching her little brother, Simon, at the beach, when he drowns. Afterward, her family begins to drift apart and Francesca blames herself. Then she meets Frankie Sky, a boy that seems all too similar to the brother she lost, and her life may never be the same.
Although Francesca is hurting and feels as if she is also losing her parents and her closest friend, Frankie Sky is so full of life and mischief that his rolling antics add just the right lightness to this achingly beautiful and memorable story of loss and grief and life and learning how to tread water again after all the trauma begins to wash away. Polisner's treatment of Francesca and each of her relationships with the other characters in this story are powerful. I found myself reliving those confused days of trying to navigate friendships, boyfriends, and parents that seem too far away to help, and cried right along with Francesca through it all.
This is a book I want to put in the hands of every teenage reader, if only to let them know that there are authors out there who get it, there are adults out there who can help, and there are books out there that sometimes (just sometimes) can help us understand that we aren't alone, even when we are hurting.
Isn't that what all good stories are supposed to help us do?