New Tween Book Review: The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott

Hey everyone, it’s Sarah!

Last week, one of my coworkers held up a copy of this book and asked me if I knew about it. It didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary and I wasn’t familiar with it. My coworker explained that this novel was a kid’s book and it was about a young boy whose friend gets molested by his babysitter. We then discussed how our patrons might react to the novel. It was at that point, I decided to take it home and read it.

This book is a library professor’s dream. It sparks the kind of discussion that I have spent full weeks on in library school. Issues related to censorship and age-appropriateness were sparked between me and my coworkers, before any of us had even read the book! I work in a very conservative community and I can see many parents taking issue with this book. Therefore, I thought it was extremely important for me to become familiar with Abbott’s book.

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Summary:

Owen and Sean have been best friends since they were young. Owen has the perfect family, even if his sister is annoying at times. Owen feels like he can talk to his parents about anything and he looks up to his go-kart track owning father. Sean has a very different home situation. His parents are divorced and his mother struggles to pay the bills. Sean’s mother is finally working on getting a better financial footing and to cover her longer hours at work, she requires that Sean have a babysitter. Sean has diabetes and she wants to ensure that he is staying on top of it and being safe. While he never warms up to the idea of having a babysitter, soon his baby sitter starts doing some weird and gross things. Owen is the only person Sean feels safe sharing the bad things going on with his babysitter. Owen to tell an adult, especially as things begin getting worse and worse, but Sean threatens to kill himself if Owen tells anyone. If Owen tells, he may lose a friend, but if he doesn’t tell he may also lose a friend.

Review:

This novel broke my heart more and more with each chapter. It clearly lays out the sexual abuse in a way that I have never seen before in a children’s book. It presents a real story with a realistic ending. I think that this book is hard and will be hard for adults to allow their children to explore, but I also think that this book is important. There is no ambiguity surrounding the abuse, readers clearly know when lines are crossed and that it is okay to inform an adult. I know that this book will quickly land on the banned books list and will be shocking for adults who may not know what the book is about. Yet, I am overwhelmingly struck by the importance of this book. Abbott starts the discussion surrounding sexual abuse and gives children the support to get help and deal. While the voice wasn’t completely believable 100% of the time, I think this is forgivable for what the work accomplishes.

Rating:

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