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Last of the Summer Tomatoes (Young Love's Journey #1)
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Young Adult Discussions > Last of the Summer Tomatoes, Sherrie Henry

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Ulysses Dietz | 1575 comments Sherrie Henry has given us a for-real YA book that would be something strong and powerful for early high-schoolers. That this creates some weakness in its literary punch in no way negates the positive things I felt about it.

A reverse of the city mouse country mouse tale, comfortable in its parable-like set up, we get a brief introduction to Kyle, who takes the fall for a friend and gets put into a juvenile work-release program that sends him up to a farm (apparently in upstate NY, but it felt like the midwest to me).

But here's the catch. Kyle, a wannabe artist and emo archetype, has been brutalized by his drunken stepfather, Hank, having lost his father when he was a little boy. He's so inured to a violent and loveless home-life, all but abandoned by his once-loving mother (not unusual in abusive relationships), that he can't quite come to grips with his new reality. Charmingly, it's not the grim, joyless farm-life he has "researched" on the internet, but a sort of Eden-like world where the stars are brighter and the food is better than anything he's ever known. Central is the fact that Glenda and Walt, the middle-aged farm couple who take him in to help on their dairy farm, are gentle and generous and loving to him from the very start.

All of this, but for the fact that Kyle is gay, could be right out of a Disney Sunday feature from my own upstate New York childhood. And that's just fine. Why high school kids, particularly gay ones, need to read about dark and difficult dystopian worlds (Hunger Games, please!), I'll never know. Isn't the reality of adulthood a rude enough awakening for most of us?

This does create some awkwardness in the rolling out of the narrative, which focuses on the return home for the summer of Glenda and Walt's college-boy son, Sam. A wee bit of Disney magic arises because Kyle recognizes Sam from a dream he had months earlier, a dream he recorded in startling accuracy in his sketchbook.

We know where this is going, and I had to confess I was damp-eyed more than once at the tender evolution of the rapport between these two boys. Henry bends over backwards to avoid any kind of explicit sexual content - sometimes to mildly absurd levels. (Hey, these are teenage boys!) But her purpose is clear: this is a story about the blossoming of love - not lust. It is a romantic fairy tale about stumbling from adversity into a happy ending, without really knowing how it will turn out.

I could have done with a bit more conflict here - there are more impossibly good folks in this book than ever populated a Jane Austen novel. Some prickly contrast would have made the goodness stand out in higher relief.

But I have no bone to pick with a teen romance for gay kids showing them that love and sex are not the same thing, and that dreaming of a lifelong romance is not pointless or futile.

Hey, I met my husband in college 38 years ago. I'm a believer.


Michael Bowler (michaeljbowler) | 4 comments I agree with you on this book. I had a few problems with it, but overall thought it really heartfelt and involving. I neglected to mention in my review that the supernatural "dream" thing didn't work for me at all, but it's a good story for teen boys, nonetheless.


Ulysses Dietz | 1575 comments If I'd had this when I was sixteen, it would have been HUGE for me.


Michael Bowler (michaeljbowler) | 4 comments Thankfully there's more fiction like this coming out so kids like Kyle have a "place to go" as it were.


message 5: by Charles (new)

Charles (chuck-e) | 306 comments I direct all such young readers to our own authors: Brent Hartinger and Chris O'Guinn.

A damned good starting-off point.


Mercedes | 373 comments Ulysses wrote: "Why high school kids, particularly gay ones, need to read about dark and difficult dystopian worlds (Hunger Games, please!), I'll never know. Isn't the reality of adulthood a rude enough awakening for most of us?"

Aww Uly, this is so true! Adulthood sure ir rude.

Anyway, as I read your review I starting going "I have t read this book" but you truly had me at "romantic fairy tale" and no graphic sex? sounds like a total winner for when I need something light and cheerful for my heart.


Trisha Harrington (trishaharrington) | 3 comments I don't know if I could have loved this book more. I only had one thing that kind of got to me. But in the end, I loved the book too much. It's definitely one of my all time favourite YA reads.


PaperMoon | 665 comments I am really looking forward to reading this now.


Trisha Harrington (trishaharrington) | 3 comments PaperMoon wrote: "I am really looking forward to reading this now."

I hope you enjoy reading it! :))


PaperMoon | 665 comments Trisha wrote: "PaperMoon wrote: "I am really looking forward to reading this now."

I hope you enjoy reading it! :))"


I'll feedback asap.


Trisha Harrington (trishaharrington) | 3 comments PaperMoon wrote: "Trisha wrote: "PaperMoon wrote: "I am really looking forward to reading this now."

I hope you enjoy reading it! :))"

I'll feedback asap."


Yay! Have fun reading it. :D


PaperMoon | 665 comments This was a good read. I liked the MCs Kyle and Sam. As Ulysses has already mentioned, the degree of LGBT-affirming folk in the country town seemed a little too good to be true though. As a YA novel - the book works, with Kyle making progressive steps towards self acceptance and developing more confidence in the process. The only drawback for me is that I read this in the aftermath of 366 Days and consequently, kept making comparisons between the two books; with Henry's title being unfairly rated in a few aspects as a consequence. That said, I still found this a worthwhile read - 3.5 stars from me.


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