The other side of Summer by Emily Gale

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Random House Australia. ISBN 9780143780113
(Age: 11-14) Highly recommended. Grief. Migration. Grief stricken, Summer is trying to recover, her only consolation a guitar that her brother had owned. Then her father makes a momentous decision - her family will move from London to Australia - and Summer is even more distraught. She had to leave everything she knows behind, including her best friend Mal, and face a life in a new country. There she meets a strange boy who seems to be magically connected to her guitar. Together the two will try to help each other.
This was a fascinating novel. For many chapters it seemed to be a typical story of a young girl trying to cope with her grief while facing strange new words and customs on a new country. Then Gale introduces a touch of magic realism and the reader is blown away as the strange young boy Gabe appears as if he is time travelling. As Summer works through what is happening, the story of the family tragedy gradually unfolds, amidst family angst and heartache. The family dynamics are beautifully described, as Summer struggles with her feelings about her mother who seems to have abandoned them and her sister Sophie who has changed from being totally annoying with her to a sympathetic character. The reader keeps wondering about Gabe and who he is and even the the boy next door Milo, is one that the reader can identify with.
The mystery of Gabe is one that will keep readers guessing and Summer's gradual coming of age and belief in what is happening with Gabe will be followed closely.
This was a wonderful read that I finished in one sitting. Although it is aimed at middle school readers, the writing that flows with ease, the vivid descriptions and realistic characters will appeal to older readers as well.
Pat Pledger