Author: Andrea Beaty
Lexile Score: 840
Genre: Realistic Fiction/ Mystery/ Suspense
Maturity level: 4th grade (death of a sibling, older man chokes the main character)
Pages: 166 Chapters: 16 Pages per chapter: 10
Theme: Death, secrets, judging other people's character
Project ideas: Research Cicadas
First Line: Some people think Cicadas bring trouble when they come to town.
Main Character: Lily
Review in 25 words or less: The heart-pounding suspense is juxtaposed against the thoughtful intensity of the main character. At times almost poetic; at other times, a race through gripping action!
Lily has witnessed her brother's death - and by describing it that way, I'm keeping the truth a secret just as she has from her father. She has not spoken since the accident, but a new strange girl in town - Tinny - has found Lily out and threatens to disrupt her life in more ways than one. Tinny's father has sent her to town so he can make a clean getaway after his crime spree - behavior Tinny has learned and put to no-good use as Lily watches silently and helplessly. The pieces of the puzzle begin to come together like a Nancy Drew mystery for Lily - but will she figure it all out before Tinny's father's accomplice makes matters worse?
Cicada Summer is like a big basket of literacy fruit - some of the writing is very poetic and made me want to read and reread it:
"The oil pulls in the moonlight and shimmers and swirls, inky and black and beautiful. Oil on midnight water."
Other sections were pure suspense and the words raced toward an uncertain end. Humor, too, was abounding in the words and actions of the elderly women Lily frequently visits. All this mixed in with the absolute hatred I was feeling in empathy for Lily when Tinny would manipulate her and take advantage of her not speaking. The book was such a mixed bag of emotions, and it made for a highly enjoyable read.
I think this would be a supremely excellent choice for book club or reader's workshop. Students would have much to grapple with in discussion, and natural prediction points abound. I have never lived with Cicadas, but I think knowing more about that sound would enhance the reading.
*Nominated for a 2008 Cybils Award in Middle Grade Fiction! (The opinions shared here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my fellow panelists.)