Thirteen-year-old Nina has the whole summer stretching before her, but instead of being excited she can only feel dread. Her beloved grandma died a year ago, her parents—both divorce lawyers—are wrapped up in a high profile case, and her brother works or keeps to himself most of the time. To top it off, if feels like her best friend and neighbor, Jori, with her interest in clothes, boys and makeup, is pulling away from her. But then she gets an idea. What if she could make things better for herself and her neighbors by performing small, anonymous acts of thoughtfulness, one for each of the 65 days left before school starts? Nina’s small idea becomes big in ways she never could have imagined.
The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz is a simple tale that carries a big message: while you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control how you react to them. Also, it’s easy to think that only big actions can bring big results, but in reality small things are more manageable to take on, and small things can snowball into big ones.
The people in Nina’s cul-de-sac are typical of those living in many American suburbs: a harried single mom working hard to take care of her sons, a grouchy recluse, a suspicious woman who’s determined to get to the bottom of all the “strange” happenings, and a house that sits vacant while the weeds grow up around it. Each person is focused on his or her own situation until Nina’s acts force them all to look beyond themselves and see the neighborhood in a different light.
The story is inspirational without falling into preachiness, I highly recommend The Summer I Saved the World for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 through 13. It may even inspire individual members or the whole group to take on a similar project in their own neighborhoods, anonymous or not.
The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.