Despite worries about her mom, who is serving in Iraq with the National Guard, Julia, age 12, is really looking forward to the coming summer. She'll be staying with her best friend, Eliza (also 12), whose family are caretakers at an upscale mountain lodge, a place Julia always thought of as being enchanted. This summer seems like the perfect summer in the making.
Except nothing is perfect.
Julia is growing up. And she's becoming curious about teenager-y things. Eliza, mentally at least, has not matured at the same rate and still wants to play the same "make believe" games the girls had always enjoyed during their childhood. Julia, however, just can't get into that anymore. Then Julia strikes up a friendship with Michael, a boy vacationing at the lodge with his family, and Julia thinks she might like to try kissing him. She can't even talk with Eliza about her feelings, because Eliza doesn't understand. Plus, Eliza is jealous of Michael for stealing Julia away from her. This makes for quite a bit of drama. Can these two girls overcome their differences and remain friends? Or will this be the summer that they go their separate ways?
The Summer Before Boys is a wonderful Tween story by Nora Raleigh Baskin. Bittersweet, well-written, and entertaining, this story deals with some very real issues girls passing from childhood to adolescence must face as they grow up. It is also an excellent recommendation for tweens who have family members serving overseas.
For a similar read, try This One Summer, a graphic novel by Mariko Tamaki that was a Printz Honor Book for 2014. In this story, tweenage Rose must navagate family drama (her mom recently miscarried and hasn't been able to get over it) and the fact that her relationship with summer friend, Windy, is also changing.
The Summer Before Boys is recommended for Tweens. This One Summer deals with some more mature topics (a side character becomes pregnant and there is some mature language) and, therefore, is suggested for older audiences. Both are fantastic, though. Pick up one or both books for a quick weekend read.