The First Magnificent Summer (Hardcover)
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Judy Blume meets Barbara Dee in this tender and empowering middle grade novel told in journal entries and poetry about a young writer on the verge of becoming a woman whose summer with her estranged father doesn’t turn out the way she’d hoped.
Twelve-year-old Victoria Reeves is all set for her “First Magnificent Summer with Dad,” even though it’s been more than two years since she last saw him. She’s ready to impress him with her wit, her maturity, and her smarts—at least until he shows up for the long road trip to Ohio with his new family, The Replacements, in tow.
But that’s not the only unpleasant surprise in store for Victoria. There are some smaller disappointments, like being forced to eat bologna even though it’s her least favorite food in the world. And then there’s having to sleep outside in a tent while The Replacements rest comfortably inside the family RV. But the worst thing Victoria grapples with is when she begins to suspect that part of the reason Dad always treats her as “less than” is for one simple reason: she’s female.
As Victoria captures every moment of her less than magnificent summer in her journal, she discovers that the odds are stacked against her in the contest-no-one-knows-is-a-contest: Not only does her wit begin to crumble around Dad’s multiple shaming jabs, but she gets her first period. And when Dad does the worst thing yet, she realizes she has a decision to make: will she let a man define her?
About the Author
R.L. Toalson grew up running wild through corn rows and cow-grazing fields and recording true and wildly exaggerated false tales to entertain her friends, family members, and anyone who would listen. She still runs (literally) wild through the streets of her city and spends most of her days recording true (if a little exaggerated) and false tales to entertain anyone who will listen. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her one brilliant husband, six delightful children, and two arrogant cats. She’s the author of The Colors of the Rain, which won the Arnold Adoff Poetry Honor Award for New Voices in 2020; The Woods, which received a starred review from Booklist; and the highly acclaimed The First Magnificent Summer. Visit her at RachelToalson.com.
Realistic descriptions of emotional abuse and its impact come with later insight into her father’s internality, giving way to affirming messages about staying true to one’s core and realizing where love lies.
— Publishers Weekly
Twelve-year-old Victoria Reeves is ready to have The First Magnificent Summer with Dad.
Two years after her father was caught hiding a second family, leading to her parents’ divorce, aspiring writer Victoria is set on convincing him to come home. With her dad coming to Texas to pick up Victoria, older brother Jack, and younger sister Maggie for a road trip to Ohio and a monthlong visit, she believes this is her perfect opportunity. Victoria’s No-Fail Plan to Win Dad Back involves three steps: reading lots of highbrow books, impressing him with her dedication to writing in her journal, and smiling (because Dad doesn’t like it when children don’t look happy). However, everything quickly falls apart when he shows up with The Replacements, his new family, and makes it clear that he is not impressed by the new Victoria. His constant body-shaming of her, his clear preference for her brother because he’s a boy, and the trauma of trying to handle her first period without the help of a sympathetic adult are intensely painful. When Dad goes even further in betraying her trust, Victoria must decide who she really is—with or without him. Victoria’s journal entries provide deep insights into her complex thoughts and experiences. Themes of womanhood, family, and self-worth are thoughtfully woven throughout. Characters are presumed White.
Leaves readers with a sense of self-worth and the important message that they’re worthy of unconditional love. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-13)
— Kirkus Reviews