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Tim Ranney, author
A modern-day Stand by Me, this coming of age story is set in 1969 against the backdrop of the moon landing and Woodstock. Grant is finishing his freshman year of high school in small town, Connecticut. While summer vacation looms large and enticing, his best friend, David, is about to drag him into all sorts of predicaments. David is determined to date Lisa, whose parents will only allow her to double date in public. He talks Grant into chaperoning, along with Lisa's best friend, Rebecca, who is one of the most popular girls in school. As school draws to a close, David volunteers Grant for a tournament and a class bully mistakes Grant for someone else. On his paper route, the shy and mysterious daughter of a farmer is always hiding in wait. The boys get summer jobs to afford dating, and while David and Lisa get amorous and “run the bases,” Grant falls for Rebecca who has a few secrets of her own. He also develops a crush on a customer who’s married to an abusive husband, the town’s former star basketball player who Grant angers during a game of one-on-one. This charming story of a simpler time is about friendship, loyalty, falling in love, figuring things out, caring for others, and learning that things don’t always turn out the way you want. In other words: growing up. If you didn’t have a friend like David in your formative years, you were probably him…
As its title suggests, Ranney’s warm novel centers on a small-town summer where everything changes, in this case in Connecticut in 1969, a season of national turmoil and triumph. Ranney throws us into the life of Grant, who is just finishing his freshman year of high school and in the throes of the usual adolescent preoccupations, namely, girls and dating, a troublesome best friend bullies who threaten violence, and summer jobs that offer a glimpse of real life. Over the summer, Grant experiences a slew of firsts: his first double date and his first kiss: “a real game changer, a genuine, incredible, fantastic, spectacular kiss that sent chills down his spine”). But there other, more unexpected firsts crammed into those months afford Grant a glimpse of what it truly means to grow up.

The story is simple and narrated in an easy and engaging manner. Even though the things Grant is experiencing are hardly uncharted territory, Ramney’s story is likely to evoke in readers a strong nostalgia for their school days. Whether it is Grant’s exasperation at David dragging him into another mess, his wonder as he learns what “second base” means, or his sincerity when it comes to doing a good job delivering the daily newspaper, Ranney stirs emotion with crisp language and precise detail. Sporadic moments of humor enliven the narrative, giving it a piquant punch.

Ranney charts social changes, as when Grant’s friend suggests it’s never a good idea to ask a girls’ permission before making a move, though the sexual encounters are all consensual and handled with sometimes playful respect. The narrative picks up pace towards the end, where a lazy summer threatens to be overwhelmed by grown-up concerns. But this is a fitting culmination to what turns out to be Grant’s metamorphosis into maturity. This book is a good fit for anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories in small-town America.

Takeaway: An engaging story of growing up in small town America—and how things have changed.

Great for fans of: Stuart Dybeck’s The Coast of Chicago, Stephen King’s Different Seasons.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-