All Summer Long by Hope Larson, 176pp, RL5
While I am 20+ years older than Hope Larson, I did spend my formative summers growing up in Los Angeles (Santa Monica versus Eagle Rock) and reading her newest graphic novel, All Summer Long, transported me immediately to my summer after seventh grade. From the long, hot days and unsupervised freedom to the not-especially awful boredom to the pleasure of being creative and being alone to the challenges of friends changing and changing friendships, I could relate to Bina. When her best friend and neighbor Austin heads off to soccer camp and her parents, after a week of binge watching a British Teen Private Eye, block her streaming privileges, Bina is left with assigned summer reading - The Odyssey - and her electric guitar.
Bina is surprised by a friendship that blossoms with Charlie, Austin's older sister who has been sidelined from her summer job lifeguarding due to a broken arm. However, a secret boyfriend and a few jerk moves make it seem like Charlie is using Bina. Larson does a fine job with the subtleties of this kind of friendship - one that shifts between symbiotic and parasitic and is often unfathomable to you while you are in it, especially if you are only thirteen. While it's occasionally painful to watch Bina navigate Charlie, it is a joy to see her explore and expand her love of music through playing her electric guitar and listening to music, new and old. When Austin does return from camp, things are rocky but, as Bina's mom says, "you're more you everyday." Bina has the confidence to recognize that her friendship with Austin will survive because they are friends on, "like, a cellular level."
The chance to go to a live show and meet Steep Streets, a "baby band" (a band that is not signed to a label and largely unknown) that Bina is obsessed with, she becomes even more herself. As All Summer Long comes to a close, Larson sets perfectly sets up the next graphic novel in this trilogy. School starts and Bina posts a very punky, DIY flier in the halls demanding, "Hey, You! Join My Band! We Will Be Terrible and We Will Rule!" The final page shows Bina opening her locker, notes from all the interested musicians tumbling out.
Source: Review Copy