By Dustin Cabeal
All Summer Long is not one of those slice of life, coming of age stories that anyone can pick up and enjoy. It is exclusively written for seventh and eighth graders that are entering their tween years of life. When I say exclusively, I mean it. For an adult, this book lacked a lot of emotional depth, but I didn’t hate what it was doing because somewhere, there’s a tween that’s going to read this and relate to it… not deeply or for very long, but for a fleeting moment it will resonate with them.
The story follows Bina a girl whose best friend is going to spend a month at soccer camp. She’s devastated by this because it brakes their tradition of making a summer fun index. Austin’s absences forces Bina to find new ways to spend her summer, including spending time with Austin’s older sister. Eventually, there’s a message taught to Bina about her being cool on her own and having some confidence in the cool person she is. It’s not developed throughout the story and is instead a speech Austin delivers to her at the end. There’s a confusing bit of chemistry between Bina and Austin. The story lingers around the idea of them wanting to be something other than friends, but that’s not the goal of either character. Yet the classic deflection of “no we’re not like that” is used.
The characters are at least balanced and come across as individuals. Having read a less than stellar story in which every character sounded the same, it was at least refreshing that All Summer Long had characters of varying voices that brought about different exchanges and conversations.
The writing isn’t bad, but again, there’s no depth. I kept waiting for some real emotions to come through or for Bina to at least figure things out for herself. Hell, even a heart to heart with her very open and cool parents would have been something. Instead, there’s a quick fight between her and Austin that’s meant to be the big catalyst to the finale which is just a heartfelt conversation in which Austin stops being dumb and explains his very rationale actions. There is one convenient aspect of the story towards the end that I wouldn’t normally talk about, but Bina sees a band that she’s really into and meets the lead singer/guitarists and she’s given a record for free, but only if she starts a band of her own. On top of finding her lost keys, everything comes up pretty convenient for Bina, which stunts her emotional growth in the story.
The characters have a lot of variety to their looks and designs. The cast is diverse and reflects the real world. The backgrounds lack a lot of detail, but when there is something in the background, it's very well illustrated. It’s just that it breaks from this a lot. The art is colored in a warm yellow hue. I’m beginning to see this as a cheat as another story I read published by First Second had the same thing going on, but with a blue hue. Sure, it keeps it from being black and white, but when you wash everything with one color, it doesn’t add to the art. The hue is never effectively used for shadowing or depth, but instead, it’s like, “this feels like summer, fill all the white with this.” Granted without it the details would be lost on the page because it’s not an art style that particularly works in black and white, but then at that point why not just color it 100% instead of one hue? It's just a shame that the art is trying to carry the story but is detracted by the lackluster coloring.
Some are likely to read All Summer Long and find no problems or faults with it. This might touch on a personal experience that they’ve similarly had, and so it’ll pass with flying colors. I think that most of those people will be from the school grades I listed above. It’s not a bad story, but it’s mediocre in its offers of a slice of life coming of age story.
All Summer Long
First Second Books