Title: The Last Best Days of Summer
Author: Valerie Hobbs
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 208
Twelve-year-old Lucy adores spending summers at her grandmother’s lakeside house and getting away from her parents, who she seems to be ambivalent towards at best. She is really close to her grandma and loves watching her make pottery and going on nature walks with her. She’s also relieved to get a break from Eddie, a boy with Down Syndrome who she’s paid to spend time with.
She wants to be popular but how can she do that with Eddie following her around everywhere? When Lucy’s grandmother starts showing signs of Alzheimer’s and things get dangerous, she starts to realize that a cherished era of her life is almost over.
Basically, The Last Best Days of Summer has a story has a good plotline and a weak plotline. The aspect of this book I did like was the relationship between Lucy and her grandmother. It was touching and heart-wrenching at times, knowing the grandmother was losing her faculties and changing from the strong and independent woman Lucy knew to a forgetful person who needed help functioning in day-to-day life.
My grandma had Alzheimer’s towards the end of her life (although we weren’t close at all) and I know what a horrible illness it is, especially in the late phases when the sufferer loses all sense of who they are. It made me sad that Lucy was afraid her grandma would forget her. Which brings me to the Eddie problem, the weaker aspect of this novel.
We all know that Lucy is going to give up her chance at the holy grail of popularity to be friends with Eddie, so waiting to get to that point is a bore. The whole storyline with Eddie was thoroughly sentimental and a typical example of a disabled character existing to provide an arc for the neurotypical character.
I’m sick of books where it’s considered massive character growth for the protagonist to acknowledge a mentally impaired person in front of her friends. I actually didn’t mind the chapters that revolved around Eddie as he ran away from home and tried to return a bracelet to Lucy and her grandmother’s house but overall, he just felt like a plot device and the book probably would have worked better if he had just played a small part or been excluded completely.