Lord, how I loathe summer.
I suppose I should clarify: I’m not a fan of summer weather. Today, for example, is the first day of summer, and here in St. Louis it’s 30 degrees (Celcius—that’s 86 Fahrenheit for my fellow Americans) with a projected high of 34/94 and a current relative humidity of about eleventy billion percent. I went for a 10K run this morning, and it was like running straight into a warm, wet slap with a washcloth. Repeatedly.
One thing I do like about summer is summer reads. Normally, I’d say “beach reads,” but there’s nary a beach in sight here in the Midwest. Reading on Tower Beach back in Vancouver quickly became a favourite pastime for me—and a surefire way to get a sunburn.
This summer, I’m reading a lot of young-adult fiction, for a couple of reasons. One is that I enjoy it in general (you might have gotten that idea based on my reaction to Ruth Graham’s snarkitude on Slate). Another reason is that I’m going to be leading a workshop in writing YA this fall for the continuing education department of St. Louis Community College. So, I want to make sure I’m as widely read as possible.
Which brings us to today’s #BookADayUK prompt from The Borough Press. I’m taking a page from my friend ’Nathan‘s book on this one (and as I frequently do), in that I’m going to talk about a summer read that I almost literally just finished reading, Juliann Rich’s Caught in the Crossfire.
That is the dilemma sixteen-year-old Jonathan Cooper faces when he goes away to Spirit Lake Bible Camp, an oasis for teen believers situated along Minnesota’s rugged north shore. He is expecting a summer of mosquito bites, bonfires with s’mores, and photography classes with Simon, his favorite counselor, who always helps Jonathan see his life in perfect focus.
What he isn’t expecting is Ian McGuire, a new camper who openly argues against phrases like pray the gay away. Ian is certain of many things, including what could happen between them if only Jonathan could surrender to his feelings. Jonathan, however, tosses in a storm of indecision between his belief in God and his inability to stay away from Ian. When a real storm hits and Ian is lost in it, Jonathan is forced to make a public decision that changes his life. (from Goodreads)
This story is outside of my own experience in so many ways—I’m not a person of faith (unless faith in Kylie Minogue counts), and I never went to summer camp as a kid. I suspect we probably couldn’t have afforded it, and perhaps also my parents didn’t want to put us through that. (Instead, I had to suffer through little league for two years, an experience that did more to turn me off of participation in team sports than anything else.) I have no doubt, however, that it’s all too familiar to many kids—and that’s why it’s important that everyone be able to find their experience in the fiction they read, I think. It’s a way of reassuring them that no, they’re not alone, and they’ll get through this. Rich’s story resists easy answers and doesn’t wrap everything up neatly, a trait that I enjoy in the stories I read as well as the stories I write. I’m looking forward to the second book in the series.