The Year Without a Summer

The Year Without a Summer
Age Range
Release Date
August 16, 2022
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Explosive volcanic eruptions are cool, really, cool. They inject ash into the stratosphere and deflect the sun’s rays. When eighth grader Jamie Fulton learns that snow fell in June in his hometown because of an eruption on the other side of the world, he’s psyched! He could have snowboarded if he’d lived back in 1815 during the year without a summer. 

Clara Montalvo, who recently arrived at Jamie’s school after surviving Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, has a different take all this. She is astounded—and disturbed—by Jamie’s frenzied enthusiasm for what she considers an obvious disaster. The teens’ battling arguments cause science class disruption and create academic trouble: Jamie’s headed for a failing grade in science, and may not even graduate from eighth grade; Clara’s scholarship hopes are dashed. And school isn’t the only place where Jamie and Clara are facing hardship: as they quarrel whether natural disasters can be beneficial, their home lives are also unraveling. Uncertainty about Jamie’s wounded brother returning from Afghanistan and Clara’s unreachable father back in Puerto Rico forces the two vulnerable teens to share their worries and sadness. As their focus shifts from natural disasters to personal calamities to man-made climate changes, the teens take surprising steps that astonish them. Ultimately, through hard work and growing empathy for each other, as well as for their classmates’ distress over the climate change affecting their lives, Jamie and Clara empower themselves and the people they touch.

Editor review

1 review
Natural Disasters and Friendship
Overall rating
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After suffering through a major hurricane, Clara finds herself in the United States while her dad is helping rebuild her home in Puerto Rico. During class one day, Clara suggests the idea to do a project on natural disasters to make others aware of how much of an impact they have on families. Her idea is to do it on hurricanes, but when she gets into an argument with fellow classmate Jamie who doesn't quite understand what's so bad about them, the two are paired together. They're doing their project on a volcanic eruption that caused it to snow in the summer. While Clara brings up the damage natural disaster cause, Jamie is focused on how exciting it would be to snowboard all summer.

Even though Jamie and Clara are paired for a project, it isn't the only subject of interest. Both of them have a lot going on with their families and it's something they have to bond over. Clara misses and worries about her father who's in Puerto Rico. Jamie has a brother who's just returned home Afghanistan. The two have a lot to learn from each other in both life and about themselves.

THE YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER is a middle-grade story that focuses on natural disasters and social and family issues. I love how the two characters have completely different personalities, yet they still bond over their familial issues. We get to see their character growth and I enjoy the message this story has about natural disasters. While I wasn't expecting the personal issues with their family, it adds more substance and drama to the story.

Final Verdict: Overall this is an easy read that I would recommend to middle-graders who enjoy stories about natural disasters, friendship, and family and social issues. It has more lessons to teach than just the devastation natural disasters cause, so it holds the reader's interest the entire time.
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