With loving observational style, All Summer Long by Hope Larson captures the insecure wavering that is often felt in the time between childhood and adulthood. Bookended by the end of 7th Grade and the beginning of 8th Grade, and broken up into seven weeks of summer, the graphic novel follows Bina over her summer vacation of ups and downs.
The novel opens with terrible news: Bina’s best friend Austin is going to soccer camp for the entire summer. Gone are the usual summer adventures and vacation traditions they have shared for years. Being left behind is never easy, and at first Bina copes by binging a television series until her mom cuts off the cable. After that, each week brings a new mishap and life experience. Losing her key brings her to a new friend in Austin’s older sister Charlie, that friendship introduces her to the machinations behind teen dating, and a babysitting job – complete with a traumatic episode that is at once upsetting and comforting. Typical teenage summer stuff.
Bina and Austin reunite at the end of the summer having both grown in different directions and learned a lot about who they were becoming. Will their friendship survive for 8th Grade?
The best parts of this graphic novel display the push and pull of growing up. In one scene, where Bina accompanies Charlie to a babysitting job, Bina grumbles and whines like a child about the walk and being hungry, much to Charlie’s dismay. Later, Bina holds her own when defending herself to Charlie in a scene that both highlights and refutes that Bina is “just a kid.” In another scene it is Bina’s youthful enthusiasm for her favorite band that brings a very grownup piece of advice to her ears and ends up affecting her 8th Grade year.
All Summer Long is a joy to read. Bina is awkward and likeable and fun to watch as she stumbles and dances over the summer. The adventures and mishaps are relatable and have just enough fantastic twists to keep the story stimulating and still believable. It is perfect for fans of Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. Highly recommended for ages 10-13.