Reviewed by Me for TeensReadToo.com
Over a ten day period during the summer of 1955, fourteen-year-old James Sayer learns a lot about friendship, racism, family, death, and how forgiveness always comes at a price.
It's been over a year since James's younger brother, Brand, died. Brand suffered from a rare blood disease, and everyone knew that he probably wouldn't grow into adulthood. But Brand didn't die from his disease, at least not directly, and although no one else seems to blame James for his brother's passing, he certainly blames himself. His beloved brother's death has left a hole in his heart, and he's not the same happy-go-lucky teen that he once was. He no longer has any interest in baseball, which was an activity that he and his brother shared together. Drawing, another shared interest, has been pushed by the wayside, abandoned.
Until James gets a job working at the fair for the summer alongside his friend Costello, serving ice cream at Mr. Curren's stand. Along with their other friends, G-Man and Fizz, James hopes to spend the summer working hard, avoiding the baseball games that he'll inevitably be asked to join, and staying out of trouble.
Unfortunately, that doesn't work out as well as he'd planned.
First, there are girls. Namely, a girl named Paige, who he can't seem to get enough of, even though she irritates him constantly. Then there's G-Man and the girl he loves, Marie, which causes tons of trouble since G-Man is black and Maria is white. Then there's the group of bullies in town, led by Black-Eye, who likes to make trouble anywhere he can find it.
Slowly, though, James finds these strange days of summer changing everything he knows about life and love, of tolerance and diversity, and of blame and forgiveness. For James, these ten days during 1955 might just be the turning point that he's been waiting for.
Author Jonathan Zemsky has penned an emotional story that will take you back to the past, when tensions ran high and going to the fair was the highlight of any young boy's summer. With the sounds of baseball all around you and the smell of the fairgrounds drifting in the air, BEYOND THE SHADOWS OF SUMMER is a sweet, sentimental read that you're guaranteed to enjoy.