Perfect for fans of 99 Days and Anna and the French Kiss, this unforgettable, sun-drenched summer romance from one of YA’s bestselling and most beloved authors, Sarah Mlynowski, is an irresistible dive into the joys of seizing the day and embracing the unexpected. Sam’s summer isn’t off to a great start. Her boyfriend, Eli, ditched her for a European backpacking trip, and now she’s a counselor at Camp Blue Springs: the summer camp her eleven-year-old self swore never to return to. Sam expects the next seven weeks to be a total disaster. That is, until she meets Gavin, the camp’s sailing instructor, who turns her expectations upside down. Gavin may have gotten the job just for his abs. Or that smile. Or the way he fills Sam’s free time with thrilling encounters—swimming under a cascade of stars, whispering secrets over s’mores, embarking on one (very precarious) canoe ride after dark. It’s absurd. After all, Sam loves Eli. But one totally absurd, completely off-the-wall summer may be just what Sam needs. And maybe, just maybe, it will teach her something about what she really wants.
Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little CanoeFeatured
Her long-term (almost a year) boyfriend had plans to backpack around Europe, a trip for which she was not invited, and this also keeps her busy while he is away. Once at camp, she throws herself into being a great counselor to the 8-year-olds (called Juniors) she works with. She also finds herself attracted to a guy she knew when she attended years before and she is dealing with her feelings of previously being bullied and making sure that does not happen to anyone else.
What I loved: This book was highly readable, and I finished it in a couple sittings. The plot moves smoothly and quickly. There are a couple major topics handled in this book that are really valuable to include- bullying and slut shaming. As the previous victim and current witness to these, Sam takes actions that I found really great examples, such as confronting the bullies and expressing the problems. She also goes to an authority figure (her boss) and lays it out for her to help stop these things from happening.
This book really focused on personal growth, and in that way, it did a great job. The Sam who left camp was not the same Sam who went to camp. I will add a warning that there is definite cheating and a lot of excuses/discussion about this. I found that it really tracked with Sam's character development, as she seeks to define herself away from her boyfriend and the labels that have held her back. She definitely has some maturing to do, and we watch some of this process during the book. However, this is a difficult topic and so may turn some readers away (so it is good to know before going into it).
Final verdict: Highly devourable and full of summer joy, JUST A BOY AND A GIRL IN A LITTLE CANOE is a YA contemporary of character growth. With important topics like bullying and slut shaming handled well, this is a great book about maturing and facing your fears.