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A Summer of Kings

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  445 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
It's 1963 and fourteen-year-old Esther Young is looking for excitement. Cursed with a lack of talent in a family filled with artistic types, Esther vows to get some attention by initiating a summer romance with a black teen accused of murdering a white man in Alabama.

King-Roy Johnson shows up on Esther's doorstep that summer, an angry young man who feels betrayed by the no
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2006)
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I'm not really the right person to review this book. This book is, at least in part, about the Nation of Islam and the radical black movements of the sixties. I know next to nothing about these movements. Moreover, the book is by a white author, and has a rich white protagonist. I'm a white person, and I know just enough about how black characters should be written to identify potentially bad tropes. But really and truly, I'm not the right person to assess this book to decide whether it's racist ...more
A Summer of Kings by Han Nolan

Esther Young is looking forward to this vacation since this time she will be FREE of doing no homework or tutors. She will get to do what she wants instead of what her mother thinks she needs. In her family its her brother, Stewart and her sister, Sophia that have the talents. Her parents usually tell her she is not good enough for anything but yet ask her to take on responsibility then when things don't pan out the way they ought to she gets I'm so disappointed in
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was seven years old during the summer of 1963, but I remember that the racial tension from news reports (Chet Huntley and David Brinkley) worried me...and I can remember a certain feeling of sympathy for the blacks who were struggling for equality. This book also references period details that are familiar to me (our family owned a Plymouth Fury, for instance)so I related to it perhaps in ways that Young Adults today might not. However, the feelings of growing up and struggling to discover who ...more
Oct 17, 2013 rated it liked it
A perfect read for MLK weekend, a 14 year old privileged white girl falls in love with an 18 year old black man accused of murder. It's 1963 and they are both trying to find their place in the world, and ways to make the world better. Same goals but different paths, both in experience and intention. Characters lacked depth, but this is a YA novel, could maybe even go to junior fiction, over all it was an inspiring story, with a very unexpected ending. Be the change, and believe in yourself.
Apr 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: teenagers
This book was super good! It is historical fiction and is set during the Civil Rights Movement. It is written through the eyes of a 14-year-old white girl, who becomes friends with an 18-year-old black boy. The story revolves around their ideas of civil rights and how it should be caried out, but still is interesting.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was very insightful on the dichotomy between how blacks and whites were treated during the 1960s. Although the main character, Esther, tried to understand King-Roy it was hard for her to have empathy when her and King-Roy were so different.
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This gets 5 stars because of the amazing and realistic ending.
Lauren Alexander
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lauren Alexander
A Summer of Kings
By: Han Nolan
Goodreads Review

This story takes place in New York City. It is about this teenage boy, King-Roy Johnson. King-Roy was accused of killing a white man in Alabama. Before anyone could catch him his mother sent him to live with Esther Young and her family in New York. Esther has a huge crush on King-Roy all throughout the book. When she told her best friend Pip, he freaked out saying stuff like “You think you and this cold blooded killer are going to b
Elizabeth Curley
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: core-reading
The book A Summer of Kings by Han Nolan is a book about a young girl named Ester Young and her new house mate, African American King-Roy Johnston. King-Roy was accused of murder, so instead of staying in the south his mom recommends he stays up north with her good friend who happens to be Esters mom. The news of King-Roy coming to their house makes Ester very excited, because she is finally ready to have a different summer for a change with a new person in it. The protagonists name is Ester Youn ...more
Deena Shoemaker
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
It's been a few years since I read this book, but everything I remember about it was amazing and beautiful and heartbreaking.

The hatred that humankind can feel towards a people group is unbelievable, this book showed that it's possible to overcome.

I need to buy this and read it again. It was definitely one I want to own, and I'd recommend it highly. It's a book that's been in the back of my mind since the day I read it.


4/13/13 -- Bought the book. Re-read it. New review:

Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
In the novel A Summer of Kings, by Han Nolan, the author's main message is that one should always be one's self and should not care if other people think differently. This story was written in first person from Esther's perspective. The protagonists in this novel are a 14 year old girl named Esther and a teenage boy named King Roy. Esther lives in Westchester county with her mom, her aunt, and her two siblings, Sophia and Stewart. She does not have a lot of friends and is not talented compared ...more
Ashka Thakur
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
It is summer of 1963 and fourteen-year-old Esther Young wants some excitement in her life. Overshadowed by her family of talented performers, Esther yearns for attention and is determined to get it by initiating a romance with King-Roy Johnson, a black teen accused of killing a white man in Alabama. King-Roy shows up on Esther's doorstep an angry young man who feels betrayed by the nonviolent teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. His anger and frustration are fueled by one of the followers of Malc ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
In the book A Summer Of Kings by Han Nolan, the message is one should not be judged on appearance or race, but should be judged on their morals and personality. Esther is the protagonist. She has an authoritative mother, an aggressive but kind father, a sweet intelligent younger brother named Stewart, and a bratty yet talented younger sister named Sophia. Esther is not considered the brightest in her family, in fact her mother tells her that it is okay is she is a gym teacher, while she tells h ...more
Lily Woolsey
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A Summer of Kings isn't just about a girl in the 1960's that falls in love with an African-American man, but it goes into the cultural depths and problems that the characters face throughout the book. In the time period, African American people were treated very poorly and this book goes into some different ways they are mistreated. When I think of that time, I think of them just not being able to get a good paying job and having to sleep eight to a bed, but this book goes on about the marches a ...more
Oct 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Historical Fictions always never fail well at least from my point of view. So when I checked out this book last summer I was determined I was going to like it, firstly because It's a historical fiction and I love history and secondly because it's about a teenage girl around my age which made me eager to read it. I enjoyed reading this book very much because of how similar I was to the main character. A Summer of Kings by Han Nolan is a novel about 14 year old girl named Esther Young who blames h ...more
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well, this was another love/hate book. I didn't care for the beginning. I know of this author because we read her Holocaust novel "If I Should Die" at our school and it is superb, so I thought I'd give this one a try. After much character development in the beginning with the main character, Esther and her crazy friend Pip, and her new summer love, King-Roy Johnson. But then it started to get interesting as the events of 1964 unfold with the inequalities of blacks and whites. A paragraph that st ...more
Shelby Upton
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've never been good at history nor have I enjoyed history all that much so that is why I was so surprised when I picked up A Summer of Kings and actually thought I would enjoy it. Enjoying A Summer of Kings is a understatement. A Summer of Kings is the story of a fourteen-year-old girl named Esther looking for excitement over her summer break and a black eighteen-year-old boy name King-Roy Johnson who comes to live with Esther and her family because he has been accused of killing a white man in ...more
Carrie G
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
A student highly recommended this book to me - she had read it and LOVED it! So, at her urging, and because I have loved everything else I have read by Han Nolan, I read it. It was okay, definitely not the quality that I have come to expect from Ms. Nolan. I found Esther to be one of the most annoying characters I have ever encountered! Her mood vacillated incessantly; she whined more than a 2-year-old; and she was just plain immature! I WAS curious to find out how King-Roy Johnson's story was g ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
After seeing this highly recommended by my friend Jean on goodreads, I got this at the library. We started reading this book out loud and Davy seemed to really enjoy it - the racial tensions and problems presented, the fascinating family dynamics, and the time period of Martin Luther King, Jr, JFK, space research and exploration, etc. On Monday Davy wasn't feeling well and stayed home from school. After sleeping for a few hours, Davy snuggled in my bed and began reading this on his own - he coul ...more
Dec 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
It's 1963, and Esther is tired of being constantly reminded by her parents that she is not as smart or talented as her 2 younger siblings. This is the first summer that she is not being forced to go to summer school, and she is ready for something exciting to happen. It's just her luck as a young African-American boy (but in 1963, he was referred to as a Negro) comes to live with her wealthy, white family. Esther decides she would love to fall in love with King-Roy. However, he realizes that wou ...more
YESSSS. A summer of kings made me cry. I really loved that Ester had so much motivation and potential. That she would fall in love with king-Roy. I brought history before my eyes. I learned a lot from this story including the experience of reading the part where Ester went to Washington to march for equal rights. I did hoped that King- Roy and Ester would fallen in love but the twist was tragic and brought tears to my eyes. What happened to King- Roy was devastating. I just wished it was a bette ...more
Jennifer Moss
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I almost didn't complete this book. The beginning introduces a character and plot line that seemed silly and unrealistic. Fourteen year old Ester has decided she will fall in love with a black teen four years older than her that she has never met. And he is accused of murder. And it's 1963. I only picked it up again because of reviews that I read and because of the award winning author. I'm glad I continued reading. The story was touching. The characters interesting. The history portrayed in a t ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Han Nolan captures what it feels like to be a late bloomer. I found myself completely identifying with the main character, Edith, even though we are separated by decades. Many people can identify with the scary feeling of being "left behind" by his/her peers. Edith struggles with so many ideas and people during the course of this novel. Through it all she finds her voice and passion. I felt honored to be a part of her journey, and even though I didn't grow up in her same circumstances or during ...more
Karen Ball
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Last summer, a murderer came to live with us."
In 1963, 14 -year-old Esther lives in wealthy Westchester county. King-Roy Johnson, 18, comes to stay with her family after he is accused of murdering a white man in Alabama. His mother was Esther's mother's childhood friend. Esther learns about the Civil Rights Movement, and what life is really like for King-Roy as a black man in the South. She also learns to stand up for herself in her own family, where she has been put down and ignored for years
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love reading young adult fiction and so glad I chose this book. It is a very powerful novel. I could really relate to the main character, whom everyone calls stupid and who can't seem to do anything right. I thought the ending was extremely well done. If you are looking for a novel that has a happily ever after ending, don't chose this book. While everything works out we for Esther, the young while girl who is the main character, King-Roy, the young black teen who comes to live with Esther's f ...more
Lisa Nocita
Jul 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Esther is fifteen and waiting for something, anything, to happen to her. She feels that the upcoming summer vacation will be transformative and, it is, in ways she couldn't have even dreamed possible. Set against the background of the civil rights movement in 1963, A Summer of Kings deftly weaves together the stories of Esther's coming of age with a young black man's struggle between choosing Martin Luther's King path of non-violence or Malcom X's call to Black Power. It is a moving and tender s ...more
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
I'm giving this two stars, not because I liked it, because I liked it ok, but because it's just a retelling of 'Summer of My German Soldier' by Bette Greene. Set in the 1960's, this book tells the story of a girl who's ignored and verbally abused by her parents, while her beautiful younger sister is treasured. She befriends a black boy who comes to their house for the summer, with all the usual problems included during that time of unrest.

Jews/Nazis in Bette Greene's book; whites/blacks in Nolan
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"A Summer of Kings" was a very inspirational read. While it was the classic character of a naive, teenage girl searching for her place in the world, the introduction of an 18 year old black male who was filled with anger and hatred really threw me off - in a good way. Reading this book was truly a journey, filled with big obstacles like racism and big themes like a passion to stand up for what you believe in. While this book was beautifully written, I especially liked that the author ended it wi ...more
Aug 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this sweet simple story, and was pleased to see Nolan's perspective on Malcolm X's ideas - ideas that rarely come out in a juvenile or young adult setting. I enjoyed watching myself both come to love and hate King-Roy. One of the final scenes is almost earth-shattering in its moment of truth, and I love that Esther 'comes into her own'. While the civil rights movements can bring a variety of emotions to surface, I appreciated that this was simpler, easier to understand, that Nolan brin ...more
Mara N.
Dec 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is kind of confusing. Esther is 14 years old and she is having a house guest this summer. The problem is, he is black. This book takes place back in the 1930's when the blacks were treated very poor. King Roy is the house guest's name and he has been accused of murder. Esther doesnt believe the cops when they say that. King Roy is very angry at all the white people for treating him so badly.
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Han Nolan is widely acclaimed for her evocative language, her gritty subject matter, and her ability to plumb the psyche of her characters. Her books include Dancing on the Edge, which won the National Book Award, Send Me own a Miracle, a finalist for the National Book Award, Born Blue, A Summer of Kings, and several other acclaimed novels. She and her husband live on the East Coast.
More about Han Nolan

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