Title: The Summer of June
Author: Jamie Sumner
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 208
First of all, don’t you just love that cover art? Gorgeous.
The Summer of June tells the story of the eponymous character, a little girl who suffers from a severe anxiety disorder. She’s also dealing with trauma from her mother’s abusive ex-boyfriend, who fractured her arm. June wants her and her mother to be ‘strong, independent women’ who don’t need men in their life. She also wants to conquer her anxiety and be a ‘lion,’ not a ‘mouse.’
June has a compulsion to pull out her own hair and at the beginning she cuts off all of it and her mom, in solidarity, cuts off hers too. Her mom works at the library and since June is on summer vacation and her mom is worried about her mental health, she has to come along and spend the day with her. When she first meets Homer, aspiring poet and soccer player, she’s resistant to his offers of friendship. But when her and Homer and a widowed old man named Luis start a community garden near the library June’s world begins to open up.
This is a cute, simple story but nothing too impressive. The depiction of anxiety was pretty good and I enjoyed the warm, supportive mother-daughter relationship. It was predictable but hey, it was a book for middle graders. I have yet to read a book I didn’t enjoy by this author (the only one I haven’t read yet is One Kid’s Trash) but Tune It Out is still my favorite.
Homer seemed a little too good to be true. It’s hard to imagine a 10-11 y.o. boy going out of his way to befriend a troubled, unfriendly girl who was mostly rude to him or spontaneously reciting poetry. June was annoyingly immature at times (like the way she treated Homer for most of the book) but in a way that was mostly believable for her character and maturity level.
She doesn’t believe anyone could like her and sabotages her own chances at human connection, which is common for people with mental health issues. As someone with depression and OCD I thought the author did a good job at showing how things that seem like ‘no big deal’ for most people can seem insurmountable for someone with an anxiety disorder. It’s hard not to feel weak or like you’re just a complete failure when things that don’t affect others can stay with you all day.
Even though I didn’t find this book to be extremely memorable, I think kids who have anxiety might be able to relate to June’s struggles. The storyline (with the big climactic scene where she has to stand up in front of a group of people and fight for her right to keep the garden she and her friends planted on library property) feels a little contrived but the story’s sensitive portrayal of adolescent turmoil and mental health still proves to be affecting.