The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley is the latest book from Jan Andrews, published by Great Plains Publications. It’s also one of her first Young Adult stories, and I think she’s done a marvelous job. Jan managed to get into the mindset of a child who has been abused and abandoned. Kyle’s trust issues are front and foremost, with good reason. He has never had anyone in his life he could rely on, until the Jones-Wardmans welcomed him into their home.
Having 3 foster kids in our family, I can certainly sympathize and understand some of the things Kyle was feeling. Although our nieces & nephew came into the family as babies and have grown up with all of us, we love them as if they had been born into the family. That being said, I doubt it would have been as easy for them if they had arrived as teenagers. These three were lucky enough to have stability, a home that has been the only foster placement they’ve had, unlike students I’ve known who were not so lucky.
Silent Summer explores the life of one such child who was bounced around from one place to the other since his father abandoned him at the age of eight. Now, as a teenager off to another foster home, he has decided that not speaking is his only way of controlling the situation in which he finds himself. Kyle steels himself against disappointment. He does not dare to hope that Scott and Jill, as they ask to be called, could possibly want him around forever. He questions their motives in his mind but does not have the courage to voice his reservations and ask why they really agreed to take him.
Despite his silence, he communicates to his foster parents through mime. The reader, however, is privy to Kyle’s thoughts and those of his imaginary figments – his father’s voice berating him and a new character that is more analytical and sympathetic, created to help him through this latest transition. Slowly, Kyle begins to adjust to his new life in the country with a dog, a cat, a herd of cows and an injured crow. The crow becomes a parody of Kyle’s life; abandoned, injured, and afraid. His new foster placement also allows him freedom to explore his creativity. Then, someone threatens to disrupt the peace he’d begun to feel – his father.
I thought this was a wonderful story. I sympathized with Kyle for reasons I mentioned above, but also because Jan was so meticulous about her character’s voice. It shines through, loud and clear, despite the absence of words to those around him. As an educator, I feel it would be a great addition to any classroom library, opening up the issue of fostering to a class – discussing good &/or bad experiences, changes that should be made to the current foster care system, and creating sympathy and understanding for those who have been through it. It’s also a terrific story for anyone who just wants to read about a teen trying to cope with a lousy life. You can follow his hopes and dreams, his anxieties and reservations. 🙂
Book Blurb (Great Plains Publications):
When no one listens, what’s the point of talking?
Kyle McGinley doesn’t say a word. Fed up with being shuttled from one foster care home to another, he has stopped speaking. But at the home of Scott and Jill Wardman, with the help of a crow, a swamp, and an excess of black paint, he begins to think that maybe, just maybe, life could be better.
As long as his frigging dad doesn’t mess things up.