4 Stars for Summer on the Short Bus by Bethany Crandell

Feel all the emotions! Bethany Crandell's debut YA novel, Summer on the Short Bus is overflowing with a mess of emotions. Talk about a rollercoaster ride! As un-"politically correct" as you can get, this novel lays it all out there- unfiltered and raw.

About the book:
Running Press // April 2014
Cricket Montgomery was born with a golden spoon in her mouth (though Tiffany platinum would have been preferred) and the narcissistic notion that the world revolves around her. After a botched party attempt at the country-club lands her in hot water with her rarely-present father, it's bye-bye relaxing Hawaiian vacation, hello attitude-adjustment as a summer camp counselor.
As if being left for dead in Western Michigan with limited cell coverage isn't punishment enough, Cricket's horror increases when she realizes she's working at a camp for disabled teens. Thankfully there's one bright spot in handicapped hell; fellow counselor and Zac Efron lookalike Quinn, who Cricket falls head over heels for. Unfortunately for Cricket, Quinn is the one person who offers her the brutal truth about the kind of person she really is--and not even a platinum spoon can make 'self-centered, bitch' taste good.
As wheelchairs, lazy eyes, and slurred speech begin to threaten her sanity, Cricket finds herself relying on the unlikely friendships she makes with the campers, and the strange connection the camp's director seems to have to her forgotten past.

My thoughts:
Well hello there, emotional train wreck. Summer on the Short Bus had me feeling it all. I cried. I snorted & giggled. I felt angry angry angry. I rolled my eyes. I smirked. I felt relief. My heart grew and grew (yep, just like the Grinch). This book is such a strong debut! Bethany Crandell took a ridiculously difficult topic and made it accessible to teens everywhere. Fear of the unknown prompts people to behave in ways they wouldn't normally- and this is what Cricket and her story is all about. Privileged (but not without her own demons), Cricket Montgomery is thrust into a world unknown to her. Her reaction is both appalling and understandable- and it is that brave candor that Crandell used while writing this that makes this novel stick out among the rest.
Cricket has never really been exposed to anyone with a disability, so image her reaction when she learns that she will be a camp counselor at a summer camp for disabled youth. Well, if you can imagine the worst and darkest thoughts you could have about another human, that is likely what you'll find in the pages of Summer on the Short Bus as we hear the inner- and sometimes outer (oh no) dialogue of teenage Crick. I will admit that some of it is cringe worthy, but nevertheless, it is honest and raw- and some are things I know the kids say- coming from the experience of teaching middle school, kids can be downright cruel.
The magical part of this novel isn't the transparency though- it is the clarity that comes as Cricket wakes the hell up from her princess life and realizes some harsh real world reality. Those campers teach Cricket more about herself in the short time she is there than she's figured out in her entire life. The changes we witness in her are beautiful- messy and real, they are a true testament to the human ability to adapt, change, and grow. She is the perfect model for teens who think that they can't change. Summer on the Short Bus proves that every person has the capability to grow and change- if you allow your mistakes to teach you.
The other cornerstone of this novel is kindness. I took away the overall feel-good notion of being kind, simply for being so. I think kids will be able to pick up on this vibe as they read and will be able to recognize that sometimes being kind is the best gift you can give another. Kindness and gratitude go a long way, and our youth need to see such examples. They need to see it in good literature like Summer on the Short Bus, in the people leading the way, in their families, and in society as a whole. This world could use a group hug, and I think this novel is just the thing.
I highly recommend this book- I'm considering reading it with my middle school class during summer school this year. Know a kid that thinks the world revolves around them?- toss this book their way. An excellent novel for any teen, but especially good for those struggling with some anger, this is a book I would thrust into their hands. Some people may have issues with the things Cricket says about disabled people, but sticking it out to the end is very much worth it. Like I said- it can be cringe-worthy, but the end result and Cricket's metamorphosis is what you need to focus on. Beautifully done!

About the author:

I live in San Diego with my husband, two kiddos, and a chocolate lab who has no regard for personal space. I'm slightly obsessed with John Hughes and the wonderful collection of films he left behind, and I'm confident that Jake Ryan will be showing up on my doorstep any day now...

I firmly believe that prayer solves problems, and that laughter is the best medicine. Along with avocados. Avocados make the world a better place.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Book synopsis and author information / image from Bethanycrandell.com. Book image from GoodReads.com

1 comment:

  1. I had wondered about this for middle school, and will have to find a copy to read now. I do like the cover, although it sounded more like a high school book. Have you considered Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge? It's a lot of fun, if you've recovered from your bout!