Summer Hawk by Deborah Savage; Houghton
Mifflin Company: Boston, 1999; $16
Have you ever been in a situation you hate? This is exactly what happens to the main character, Melissa.
Melissa is unhappy, living in the small rural community of Hunter’s Gap, Pennsylvania. She dislikes the people of Hunter’s Gap because she considers them small-minded and bigoted, and she longs for the happy, privileged life that she left behind in Philadelphia. Right away, I was able to identify with Melissa’s situation because I once lived in New York City, and after moving to suburban Virginia with my parents, I missed living in the city also.
I found it hard to believe, though, that Melissa’s classmates could be so backwards in their thinking. For example one day Melissa brought up the subject of Bosnia in history class and one of the students thought that Bosnia was a city in Massachusetts! The other kids in her school didn’t seem to care much about education, and they constantly made fun of Melissa’s mother, who was a psychoanalyst. They joked that she was a psychopath. It was easy for me to understand why Melissa must have felt like she was surrounded by Martians.
One character in the book that I found inspiring was Rail Bogart. It seemed that Melissa secretly admired Rail but would not admit it to herself because she considered him to be just a backwards country boy. I thought this was kind of snobbish of her to treat him so coldly. He was definitely different from the other kids in Hunter’s Gap. Also, I think that he really wanted to be friends with her. If I knew a boy like Rail, I wouldn’t push him away like Melissa did at first. But as I read on in the story, I was happy to see that she finally developed a close friendship with him.
The character that I found the oddest of all was the wildlife biologist the townspeople call the “Hawk Lady.” At one point Melissa finds an injured baby hawk that she takes to the Hawk Lady. This eventually leads them to have a close friendship. Quite frankly, though, I questioned the sincerity of the Hawk Lady, because she had an affair with Melissa’s father, who happened to still be married to Melissa’s mother. This really made me angry!
In the end, however, Melissa reconciles her friendship with the Hawk Lady, and even though I wouldn’t have, I found Summer Hawk to be a contemporary and memorable story; a story that showed me the power of love and friendship and the necessity for forgiveness.