‘The Summer of Broken Things’ by Margaret Peterson Haddix Illustrates What Makes Family in this Touching Young Adult Novel

broken things

In “The Summer of Broken Things,” Margaret Peterson Haddix departs from her beloved sci-fi stories, and she includes no hidden children, just two teenagers from very different families — and very different socio-economic backgrounds — who are going to spend the summer together in Spain. But there is something hidden from their past.

Although Avery and Kayla have known each other since birth, it hasn’t been a close relationship. Originally, Avery was told that Kayla’s mother was friends with her nanny. But even after Avery no longer needed the nanny, Kayla’s mother still brought gifts for Avery at holidays. When Avery’s dad is going to Spain for the summer, he suggests that Avery and a friend go with him. She’s stunned that the person accompanying them isn’t really a friend, it’s Kayla Butts from the middle of nowhere.

Haddix has the girls tell their stories through an alternating first person narrator. To make it clear who is narrating, the chapter heading includes the name of the narrator. It’s a nice touch because at times it does get a tad confusing.

What Haddix does beautifully is compare the personalities of two very different girls. One has grown up with everything handed to her on a silver plate. The other, Kayla, grew up with a father who has been paralyzed since her early childhood and isn’t able to communicate. Her mother works as a nursing home assistant, and they live with Kayla’s grandparents. Kayla’s best friends are the folks at the nursing home because she visits them daily when helping her mom. Her life, has in many ways, been the opposite of Avery’s.

Spain almost becomes a third character in the story. The girls narrate their adventures as they navigate the small streets and sit on their balcony in the evening. Learning about the brilliant hot sun and the charming Spanish streets makes readers yearn for a trip of their own to Spain.

Readers will love seeing Kayla gradually change and grow. They will also be touched when the girls must overcome a tragedy and work together to get through it. The story is about two people learning from each other and coming to respect each other. It’s about opening doors to new experiences and new challenges. And it delves into the question of what makes family? Blood ties? Shared experiences? What kind of bond? And along the way, there’s a lot of great information about Spain.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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