All Summer Long by Hope Larson
Thirteen-year-old Bina is devastated when her best friend Austin decides to spend a month at summer soccer camp. She wonders: What will become of her? Will there be no fun adventures for her this summer?
With mom and dad away at work, Bina descends into a funk. Austin is pursuing his passion for soccer. Her two older brothers have moved on and created independent meaningful lives, including the imminent arrival of a birth to bless the family. Not Bina. She feels trapped.
A chance encounter sets her off in a new direction. She begins to hang out with Austin's older sister Charlie. Initially they connect because they share a love of music. Charlie needs someone to help with some chores and babysitting jobs. Bina is happy to be noticed by older-sister Charlie and begins to tag along. Eventually she determines that Charlie may be using her. Bina must decide what she want she is willing to do to maintain the relationship.
Bina wants a friend. She also must to be true to herself. The month becomes one of self-realization.
Characters are presented with a deft hand. Each is fleshed out with a distinct personality. Readers can readily identify with each one. There are no "good guys" or "bad guys," just real people in real life struggling to define themselves.
"Lots of people spend forever looking for something they care about. Sometimes they never find it. But you already have, and you're doing it, and you're gonna be great."
"You're more you every day."
Many of Larson’s books have a mystical element and so I expected a bit of magic in this graphic novel. All Summer Long offers a magical scene, but with a distinct difference. Readers witness Bina's transformation as she responds to music. It's subtle, but her joyful rapture is evident.
Bonus: Larson uses fingering for guitar chord progressions to signal the beginning of each new chapter. Clever touch.
Savor the delights of coming-of-age in this touching homage to power of family, friends, and music.