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Tale of Two Summers - Brian Sloan In my former life, I was responsible for selecting materials (books) that would be made available to classrooms, usually to supplement Reading or English instruction, or to school libraries. As part of that job I got to/had to read a lot of Juvie titles, some much better than others, as well as any number of adult titles that were taught in HS English classrooms—it was grand—but when confronted with “why are you sitting on a plane reading a Judy Blume title and laughing like an idiot?” or “how can you read another in Paulsen’s endless cycle of Brian stories (beginning with Hatchet)?”—I could always just look up, smile, and say: It’s my professional reading.

That’s the long way around to saying, some Juvie titles and some YA titles are just fun—they’re often strongly plot-driven, they’re frequently very funny or, as often, an emotional train wreck, they can speak to a young reader in ways that an adult just can’t (regardless of the author’s age), and some of them, too few it sometimes seems, are written by authors who really care about the young people they write for and it shows. More power to them.

Brian Sloan’s Tale of Two Summers is such a novel. Hokey in some ways (e.g. it’s an epistolary novel but told using 21st-century media—alternating blog posts replete with LOLs, and OMGs, and WTFs, and the undecoded WURHD [WTF is that?], an emotional roller-coaster bouncing between hilarious foibles and heart-wrenching moments of young love and loss, and through it all, two friends retain and own their friendship, encourage each other when no one else does, and prod each other toward being better people.

Best friends for 10 of their 16 years, Hal and Chuck face their first extended period apart. Chuck, a straight, budding thespian is off to a summer arts program at a local university, while Hal, his gay buddy, remains in their hometown with only the prospects of a summer driving course and getting his driver’s license to look forward to. Chuck sets up a blog for them to share their summer experiences, naming the cite “Tale of Two Summers.”

Each have their summer romances, each have their highs and lows, each recognizes and reacts to changes in each other. Plenty of surprises, plenty of risk, moments of embarrassment that they can and do share with each other—they’re best summer together spent apart. These are the kinds of friends you’d wish for every kid.

This is the sort of book some school librarians love and hate—love it because it’s a good book that can speak to young people without being overly preachy, hate it because it’s explicit and a book-challenger’s dream come true. You’ve got to hand it to school librarians; they don’t get enough credit for what they do or the crap they have to put up with. This one is def for the more mature readers. Like most gay fiction in schools, it will appeal to girls (No chicks were harmed in the making of this novel) and the handful of gay kids who find their ways to it.

AND: there’s even a bonus, a nice little retro finish to the whole thing.