Monday, July 25, 2022

The Year Without a Summer by Arlene Mark

The Year Without a Summer by Arlene Mark
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Sparkpress
Number of pages:  296
Publishing:  August 16th, 2022
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review  

Opening Line:  "Jaime shifted his weight on his snowboard at the top of the mountain and set his sights down the slope."

There are a few things that Jamie loves, snowboarding and his older brother Lucas, who is stationed in Afghanistan.  Jamie is driven in his desire to become a professional snowboarder, unfortunately, he failed his latest science exam and risks being put on probation from the team.  Clara Montalvo, recently relocated from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated her town and destroyed their home, her father has chosen to stay behind to help with repairs but has been hard to reach because the powerlines have been down.  Clara is a responsible, hardworking student, who dreams of getting a scholarship to go to an Academy focused on architecture.  She tries very hard to fit in with the other kids at school but has faced her share of hardships.  

Currently they're learning about natural disasters in school, what contributes to them, and what consequences they pose to the environment and humans, they're to choose one disaster to discuss with the class.  Jamie begins to explore volcanic eruptions and learns of the Volcano of Tambora which occurred in 1815 in Indonesia.  It was known as the year without a summer because of the ash that was released into the atmosphere causing global climate anomalies, like below freezing temperatures in North America and snow during the summer.  Jaime is excited to share his research with his classmates and highlights all the positives that came from the volcanic eruption, which sets of a heated debate with Clara as she feels he's not seeing the seriousness of the disaster and its impact on the people of Indonesia.  Seeing the value of the two opposing views, their teacher assigns them both to debate the topic in class.  As Jaime and Clara collaborate for their debate, news arrives of a new Hurricane in Puerto Rico and that Jamie's older brother was wounded and is returning home for rehabilitation.  As they fear for their family, the two begin to find some commonalties among their differences. 

The first thing that intrigued me about The Year Without a Summer was the cover and title, curious about how the snow fit with the summer vibes.  The premise of the story was also very interesting combining three seemingly unrelated things, a historic volcano, a hurricane in Puerto Rico and a returning solider from Afghanistan.  I must say the story as a whole blew me away.    I loved all the historical aspects of the book and how relatable these teens were.  I learned so much about the Volcano of Tambora and well natural disasters in general.  The story addressed climate change and natural disasters but also gave options for how teens could advocate for change.  The emphasis on the commonalities that the two teenagers shared, their kindness, focus on the future, and family hardships made them both easily relatable.  I think I felt for Jamie the most and appreciated that the story didn't underscore the behavioral and emotional changes that occurred with his brother. While I find Jaime's wanting to get Lucas back to normal a realistic desire, it's something as a therapist that I've found difficult for loved ones to understand, that there is a new normal after an injury such as this.  As a therapist, I like to think of it as the brain is making new pathways or connections.  Overall, this was a highly engaging story and can see this appealing to kids interested in climate change.     

**A huge thank you to Sparkpress for the E-ARC**