The Summer of Bad Ideas by Kiera Stewart, 304 pp, RL 4

The Summer of Bad Ideas by Kiera Stewart is the perfect summer read, like a mini-version of an adult beach read. There is family drama, secrets, adventure, mistakes, friendship and even a the possibility of romance under the stars. Stewart takes common themes like sense of self, struggles with friends and parents and plays them out in an exotic setting with an interesting cast of characters. 

When Petunia, her mother's mother and someone she never met, dies, almost thirteen-year-old Edith Posey-Preston finds herself in a minivan next to her eight-year-old siblings who are probably geniuses, headed to Pinney, Florida for six long, hot summer weeks. Staying at Petunia's house along with a menagerie of reptiles is her cousin Rae and her mother's brother, A.J., more people she doesn't really know. Together, the families are going to fix up Petunia's house before selling it, but when Edith, who decides to go by Edie, finds a list of, "Good Ideas for Summertime 1962," her plans change.

The child of an overprotective mom (no smartphone until she's fourteen, no sleepovers, no going to Sophi Angelo's big summer kick-off party) Edie finds making friends hard. Rae lives with her mom in California and has acted in a couple of commercials and talks about Shakespeare camp and getting "likes" on Instagram. Edie makes up a few stories of her own to feel like she se is worthy of hanging with her. When she finds Petunia's summertime to-do list, which carries the warning, "Not for the Fainthearted!!" Edie feels like she has a mission. Despite her profound fear of snakes, she screws up her courage and decides to check off as many as she can. Fortunately, Mitchell, Petunia's young neighbor who also happens to be a frog-whisperer and snake wrangler, turns up.

Stewart creates a fantastic setting for The Summer of Bad Ideas in the very tiny town of Pinney where the diner is named BEST and the hardware store sells homemade ice cream. It comes in three flavors, vanilla, chocolate and, "Surprise Me!" a flavor created by the owner's senile mother each day. Vanilla Bean ice cream turns out to be vanilla with pork and beans. And, in Rae, Stewart creates the perfect person to help Edie learn how to be a friend and nudge her out from under the hovering helicopter of a mother. The "bad ideas" that Edie checks off the list are adventurous for her and sometimes a little dangerous - exciting enough for kids to appreciate and not so adventurous that parents might worry about readers getting (bad) ideas. 

Source: Review Copy

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