The Summer I Learned To Fly by Dana Reinhardt Review

Posted May 18, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 2 Comments

The Summer I Learned To Fly 
by Dana Reinhardt
Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Publish Date: July 10, 2011
224 Pages
Source: Borrowed from Tara @ Hobbitsies –Thanks, friend!
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N 

Drew’s a bit of a loner. She has a pet rat, her dead dad’s Book of Lists, an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese from working at her mom’s cheese shop, and a crush on Nick, the surf bum who works behind the counter. It’s the summer before eighth grade and Drew’s days seem like business as usual, until one night after closing time, when she meets a strange boy in the alley named Emmett Crane. Who he is, why he’s there, where the cut on his cheek came from, and his bottomless knowledge of rats are all mysteries Drew will untangle as they are drawn closer together, and Drew enters into the first true friendship, and adventure, of her life. -(from Goodreads) 

The Summer I Learned To Fly 
by Dana Reinhardt 

My Thoughts:  The Summer I Learned To Fly by Dana Reinhardt is a short and sweet coming-of-age story about a young girl in a small town – a girl that we can probably all relate to at least a little bit. 

As I was reading about Drew, there were some things that stuck out right away: 

  1. Nick Drummond – 19-year-old Nick works in the family Cheese Shop, and he’s Drew’s crush. He’s so dreamy and he’s nice to Drew and he rides a Vespa. 
  2. Lord High Rat Humboldt Fog, Drew’s pet rat, aka “Hum” – yes, Drew has a pet rat, which is kind of gross, but for she really does love the thing. 
  3. The Book of Lists. This was actually the most heart-breaking/heart-warming part of the whole book, probably. Drew’s father kept a book of random lists and she found it in the closet one day when she was looking for a shawl or a scarf or something to wear. Since these lists were written by her father, they become super-special to her, and she reads them over and over and over. This book of lists is something that she needs to learn more about her father and to be closer to him. I loved it. 
  4. Aunt Swoozie. She’s from Wisconsin, but ends up close-by. Ends up coming to the shop most days. Drew can ask Aunt Swoozie things she can’t ask her mom, so they’re very close. They talk about important stuff, like about stuff from her father’s lists (Drew’s mom doesn’t know that Drew has the Book of Lists). 
Drew has friends, but she prefers the company of Nick and Aunt Swoozie to anyone else in her life. 

As summer approaches, Drew’s mom suggests that Drew stop working and just rest a little – Drew is offended! She wants to work and she wants to get paid for it! Mom explains that there isn’t quite enough money coming in and that Drew needs to cut her hours, which makes Drew sad and a little angry. To top it off, Nick gets a girlfriend. One day, Drew leaves early and arrives home only to find that she’s left Hum at the shop (yes, she takes the rat to the Cheese Shop with her – gross). She goes back and hears whispering behind the dumpster. The whispers belong to the one and only Emmett Crane who is talking to Hum, who he has befriended. Drew and Emmett talk for a few minutes and end up kind-of hitting it off. 

What follows? Meetings in the park with blankets and cheese. Great conversations and questions that are evaded. Time spent at Drew’s house hanging out. Their friendship builds and a (ssshhh) a crush forms, separate from the crush on Nick (which doesn’t matter anymore because he has an actual real, live girlfriend). Over time, the friendship continues to grow but Emmett is always hard to locate and sometimes there are days between visits. It seems that he is always the one contacting her, finding her, leaving messages for her. He is never available when she wants to talk to him. This frustrates Drew, but she doesn’t really know what she can do about it.  

In the meantime, Nick has a really bad accident on his Vespa, which devastates Drew – remember, she’s crushed on him for a long time and considers him a friend. It’s at this point that her summer seems to take a bit of a turn: Emmett seems aloof and Nick is no longer working at the shop. Everything is different and Drew can’t depend on things to be as they always have. In talking with Nick and in learning to trust Emmett, Drew learns a few things about herself and sort of grows up a bit in the process. 


The Summer I Learned To Fly by Dana Reinhardt is super short story that is a great coming-of-age, feel-good read. It is one of those books you spend a little time reading, you close the book, and you probably just hug it for a second before you put it down and move on to the next thing. Drew is such a relatable character going thru such a relatable time in her life, and I think that is what makes the story so endearing. 

I loved Drew’s connection with her father through his Book of Lists – he isn’t present in the story in person, but he is sort-of present by way of his lists. Drew finds comfort in learning about who he is and how she is like him by reading his words, and I think that is so very much how a young person would be in real life. I think I would be that way if I in the same situation that Drew finds herself in. I love that Drew has her Aunt Swoozie to confide in and to love on. I love that she had her friend Nick at the Cheese Shop – even though Nick was a little older, he realized the importance of his place in her life and he embraced it. He never made fun of Drew – rather, he built her up, he encouraged her, he took on a “big brother” role, which is such a great thing for a person of his age. When he finally finds a girlfriend, he (and the girlfriend) break it to Drew gently and allow her to acclimate to this disruption in her life and eventually she accepts this as the norm. I love everything about his character. 

And Emmett Crane – such a great character! He was such a mystery for the majority of the book, but he had to be for the story to work. Drew wasn’t entirely sure about what Emmett was up to, and neither was I as the reader. In the end, though, it worked out for all of us, and the story turned out really well. 

Perhaps one of the more interesting relationships in the book was the relationship between Drew and her mother, because it was evolving. Drew finds herself at a place in life when she needs her mother the most, and yet her mother is around the least. Her mother doesn’t mean any harm in what she’s doing, it’s just that she is at a turning point in her life and Drew is having a difficult time dealing with this. This part of the story is part of what makes the coming-of-age part of the story so well-written and so wonderfully done and relatable. 

I recommend The Summer I Learned To Fly by Dana Reinhardt for YA readers of all ages, readers that enjoy coming-of-age stories, and readers that enjoy stories set in small towns. I think that the book is perfect for younger YA readers and also perfect for reluctant readers (particularly females) as well. 


The Summer I Learned To Fly will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary
Romance: None really beyond a crush. 
Setting: Small Town.

The Summer I Learned To Fly by Dana Reinhardt
is currently available for purchase. 

Has anyone read this book? 
What did you think? 

How awesome is that cover?


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


2 responses to “The Summer I Learned To Fly by Dana Reinhardt Review

  1. Thanks for reminding me how much I liked thisi book. I've read several of her books and enjoyed them all. She is really good at writing realistic teen characters. Nice review.

  2. I bought this on my Nook last year and haven't read it yet. I DO LOVE THAT COVER. I must get to it soon. I just hope I don't get sad that this isn't more than a Crush. (That sounds like a pop song.)

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