Review: “Summer of Salt” by Katrina Leno

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Release Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Description

A magic passed down through generations…

Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has been passed down through every woman in her family. Her twin sister, Mary, already shows an ability to defy gravity. But with their eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.

An island where strange things happen…

No one on the island of By-the-Sea would ever call the Fernwehs what they really are, but if you need the odd bit of help—say, a sleeping aid concocted by moonlight—they are the ones to ask.

No one questions the weather, as moody and erratic as a summer storm.

No one questions the (allegedly) three-hundred-year-old bird who comes to roost on the island every year.

A summer that will become legend…

When tragedy strikes, what made the Fernweh women special suddenly casts them in suspicion. Over the course of her last summer on the island—a summer of storms, of love, of salt—Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in all its many forms.” (via Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

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When Summer of Salt first came out, somehow it slipped my notice. Maybe it’s the back of the book description which does the story no favors. What it describes – a magic-less girl in a magical family and some random old bird – doesn’t even scratch the surface of everything Katrina Leno poured into this novel. It misses the heavy conversations about the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and rape culture, the powerful thread of feminism and female friendships, and one of the cutest queer romances of the year.

With their 18th birthday only a few weeks away, Georgina and Mary Fernweh are running out of time. Mary already has her magic (she can fly…or, well, float), but Georgina has nothing. If her abilities don’t appear by her birthday, she’ll never get them. And with college looming, a trip which will not only be the sisters’ first time off the island but the first time any Fernweh woman has left, everything is changing faster than they can keep up.

The twin sisters couldn’t be more different. Mary is outgoing and free with her sexual expression while Georgina is more internal and thoughtful (it doesn’t help that while Mary is straight, there is only one other girl on the island who is openly interested in girls, and she and Georgina recently broke up). They clash, as sisters are wont to do, but there’s always love and respect. Particularly toward the end after Mary becomes suddenly withdrawn and volatile, their relationship is strained but Leno works marvels by showing it as complex rather than petty or selfish. When Annabella is murdered and the island blames Mary, it’s Georgina who risks everything to prove her sister’s innocence.

At the same time, a bunch of “birdheads,” ornithologists and birdwatchers, are descending on their tiny island of By-the-Sea to catch a glimpse of the rare bird known as Annabella who some believe is actually a Fernweh ancestor. Two of those birdheads are Prue Lowry and her older brother. Georgina is hit hard with a crush on Prue, and watching their relationship blossom is one of the books brightest subplots.

This was one of the most delightful books I read all year. The writing style is crisp and light, with a twist of beauty and poetry that makes it soar off the page. I can’t tell you how much I adored this novel. I’ll be recommending Summer of Salt for years to come.

 

“It’s like a different world here. A very quaint, sort of creepy world.”

“Creepy?”

“No offense,” she said quickly. “I’ll shut up.”

“No, please, don’t shut up.” Never shut up, never leave my sight, let’s move into the graveyard together, some of the mausoleums could actually be pretty homey with the right amount of sprucing. It was just so easy to talk to Prue, like she was a complete open book. And she was funny, and interesting, and her smile was like a small revelation. Like she had invented smiling.

Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or borrow it from your public library.

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