cover image My Not-So-Great French Escape

My Not-So-Great French Escape

Cliff Burke. Clarion, $18.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-358-70150-7

Transporting readers to a French countryside chateau, this character-forward read from Burke (An Occasionally Happy Family) spotlights two Californian tweens heading to work on an organic farm for the summer. Though Rylan and Wilder were once lifelong best friends, they’ve begun to drift apart—an event that becomes more pointed after increasingly wealthy Wilder contributes to a cruel meme around Rylan’s family’s modest finances. Rylan nevertheless accepts an invitation from Wilder to travel to France for the summer, a trip that he hopes will repair their friendship. He also learns that his absent father, who left when Rylan was three, is suddenly seeking contact—and that he now lives in Paris. As the farm’s passionate owner reveals an interest in fate and divvies the kids into two camps, Wilder falls into another group of bullies, while Rylan develops his own friendships and enjoys the daily rhythms of farmwork. Detailing French cultural details with aplomb, the protagonist’s observant first-person narration captures the lingering emotional effects of turbulent relationships, the feeling of remaining “outside of the inner circle,” and his gradual acceptance of his own fate. Protagonists read as white; some portrayals rely on nationalistic clichés. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel & Goderich Literary. (Mar.)