Forever This Summer
About the Book:
Georgie has no idea what to expect when she, Mama, and Peaches are plopped down in the middle of small town USA--aka Bogalusa, Louisiana--where Mama grew up and Great Aunt Vie needs constant care.
Georgie wants to help out at the once famous family diner that served celebrities like the Jackson 5 and the Supremes, but everyone is too busy to show her the ropes and Mama is treating her like a baby, not letting her leave her sight. When she finally gets permission to leave on her own, Georgie makes friends with Markie--a foster kid who'd been under Aunt Elvie's care--who has a limb difference and a huge attitude.
Then Markie asks Georgie to help her find her mom, and suddenly summer has a real purpose. But as Georgie and Markie's histories begin to entwine, Georgie becomes more desperate to find the truth. But words spoken cannot be taken back and once Georgie knows the truth, she may even find a way to right past wrongs and help Aunt Vie and Markie out after all.
I don't usually read kids/YA books but for some reason this one caught my eye. It is set in Bogalusa, which is about an hour and a half from my home in suburban New Orleans. Bogalusa is a relatively small paper mill town and you catch an air of the town's main industry as you drive into town--like a paper company executive one told me "Smells like money to me"--and stinks to most people.
The characters are all African-American but the writing and dialogue in the book is standard English. The story includes features of African-American culture such as step dancing, silk sleeping bonnets, castor oil for hair, and extensions with long braids. It sees the "bad" side of the small southern town through the eyes of those who live in it--and of course it isn't really bad, just poorer than the White side of town and of course, the people who live there are Black. They stick together and look out for each other, in a way that puts many of us to shame.
On the other hand, this book shows that Black culture is not monolithic any more than White culture is. Georgie lives in Atlanta, which is a far different world than the Black side of Bogalusa. In the opinion of this late middle-aged White woman, Leslie Youngblood did a good job of of showing Black culture without turning it into a caricature of itself.
The climax of the story is a fund-raising talent show put on by the girls and while it seems a little far-fetched that such a complex show was put together by some twelve year olds, it wasn't just the girls, it was the community coming together to take care of their own.
I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley. Grade: B+