cover image The Summer Before Boys

The Summer Before Boys

Nora Raleigh Baskin. Simon & Schuster, $15.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4169-8673-7

The intimate tone and absent-mother theme found in several of Baskin's previous books (What Every Girl [Except Me] Knows; All We Know of Love) echo in this coming-of-age novel about the growing pains endured by Julia, the daughter of an American soldier. With her mother stationed in Iraq and her father working, Julia spends the summer with her "cousin" Eliza ("who is really my niece, but since we are both twelve years old that feels kind of stupid"). Growing up together, the two girls have always been best friends, but this summer Julia feels distanced from Eliza, not just because Eliza has a mother who is at home, but also because Julia suddenly finds herself more focused on boys than on the games of make-believe she and Eliza play at the hotel where Eliza's father works. When Julia develops a crush on the son of a hotel employee, the girls' friendship becomes even more strained. Baskin's wistful narrative carefully evokes the changes in Julia's life and attitude: Julia's uneasiness about new romantic feelings and her anxiety about her mother's safety ring true. Ages 9%E2%80%9312. (May)