Katie Fitzgerald's Reviews > My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari
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's review
Aug 31, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: source-netgalley, level-middle-grade, genre-realistic-fiction, format-ebooks
Read in November, 2011

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer is a forthcoming middle grade novel dealing with the issue of civil unions for gay couples in the state of Vermont. June Farrell is twelve years old and plans to enter a pie contest during the summer’s Champlain Valley Fair, but due to protests from her neighbors about her mother’s intentions to marry a woman, her mom is asking her to keep a low profile. Feeling that she is being treated unfairly, June develops a negative attitude toward her future stepmom, Eve, and must find a way to make peace with the fact that her mother isn’t exactly like her friends’ moms.

This is a definite “issue” novel, and though the writing is really beautiful, I think the most likely audience for the story is those kids who can see their own families in it. The atmosphere of the story is really wonderful, with lots of specific details evoking the positives and negatives of small town life. The pie contest and details surrounding that are also described in a truly evocative way, which reminds me quite a bit of Pie by Sarah Weeks.

My main criticism of the story is that the hatred of the neighbors toward June’s mother and her girlfriend didn’t feel real to me. Those feelings of disgust and disapproval are definitely out there in society, and I am sure they are directed to kids like June, who feel powerless as June does throughout this book. But the prejudices didn’t come across as authentic. They felt cartoonish to me, as though the text was trying extra hard to demonize the people who didn’t approve of the Farrells’ lifestyle. By the same token, I also thought the ending of the story wrapped things up too nicely, and that June’s sudden acceptance of certain things she had previously rejected served the message of the story better than the development of character or plot.

Overall, I think this book provides a valuable reading experience for kids dealing with prejudice and hatred toward their own families, and perhaps also a lesson for kids who might repeat hateful comments they hear in their own homes. The message took over the story for me, and felt kind of heavy-handed at times, which is too bad, but I think this author has a wonderful way with words, and I’m looking to forward to seeing what else she might write in the future.

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Reading Progress

12/18/2016 marked as: read-2011
12/18/2016 marked as: read

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