FREEFALL SUMMER by Tracy Barrett is a coming-of-age novel that addresses an overprotective father and boyfriend (dare we use patriarchal?) who seem to have “good reasons,” but their behavior has the same effects as any other confining actions, no matter the motivation. Clancy Edwards seems to have it all. She is 16-years-old with a doting father, a handsome boyfriend, and a best friend who always has her back. Her father owns a skydiving business, and Clancy works there, earning money packing parachutes and spending time with the family-like employees at the Drop Zone every weekend. From the novel’s start, we have hints that Clancy is uncomfortable with the suffocating attention from the men in her life, but we also find out why they may feel like they need to protect her: Clancy’s mother died in a skydiving accident when Clancy was just six-years-old.
Clancy comes across as a typical 16-year-old who wants to test out her independence on her own terms. Her relationship with her father is loving and comfortable, but it’s also awkward and frustrating. Clancy’s boyfriend, Theo, is a gentleman and seemingly perfect, but he’s just as protective as her father — and soon cracks begin to show. So, when Denny, an 18-year-old 1st time skydiver assumes Clancy is in college and doesn’t treat her like she’ll break without protection, shows up, it’s an opportunity to try out autonomy and feeling “grown up.”
Overall, the growth Clancy shows leads smoothly to the climax of the novel. Her alternating appreciation of and exasperation with her father’s and boyfriend’s attention is a natural extension of learning to claim autonomy. And Clancy’s growing attempts to stretch her independence feel very true to teenage behavior and emotions. I also appreciated an intimate scene in which Clancy asserted her desires over her boyfriend’s. Kids (and adults!) need all the examples they can get! The novel also highlights truth-telling and the unintended effects of keeping secrets, both in large ways and small.
Highly appreciated was the knowledgable way in which skydiving culture was discussed and described. And no wonder! Author Tracy Barrett is an avid skydiver and even met her husband at a Drop Zone. Learn more about her here.
Freefall Summer is recommended for teens 13+ and anyone who appreciates young adult stories.