In Jeff Zurowski’s My Summer Vacation, Brent Jackson was handed a composition journal from his future teacher on his last day of fifth grade and told to write daily entries so that everyone would get to know each other better as they enter their new school. Even with prompt ideas, Jackson (like all kids) wasn’t thrilled about taking time out of his carefree day to complete a non-preferred activity, but writing grew on him, even turning into something he enjoyed doing.
From his description, Jackson lives in a close-knit community at some point in the 1980s. He has a Nintendo in his room (gifted to him after his older brother got in trouble and was banished from using the system), rents tapes from a family run video store (befriending the owner’s son who goes by Movieboy) and listens to Brian Adams on his cassette walkman. These are welcomed nuggets of nostalgia from anyone who grew up in that decade.
As journal entries, they make for a really quick reads, as Jackson summarizes his day, adding his thoughts and feelings. With each entry dated, it’s fun keeping track of upcoming holidays or dates of personal importance (my birthday is in June, so I was looking forward to reading about that day). The journal entry dates, along with Jackson’s summer plans that never quite come to fruition, also serve as a cruel reminder of how quickly time passes and how easy it is to keep putting off even preferred tasks. It was easy to identify with Jackson’s numerous entries talking about goals he had that he never quite got around to doing (playing catch, learning guitar).
The best part of the book is how Zurowski completely nails Brent Jackson’s character. There is an innocence to his writing. The overreactions to minor disturbances and thinking that he and his friends would be able to solve some major problems while on their bikes are common ideas that go through kids’ minds. It can all seem absurd at times, but it all makes sense when you realize its written from the point of view of a soon to be sixth grader.
My Summer Vacation is a book geared toward young adults that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Reading and discussing the book together could make for some great family bonding, especially for the parents who grew up in the ’80s. With some creative planning, this could become a guide for the upcoming summer.
“My Summer Vacation” and all of Jeff Zurowski’s books are available for purchase here: https://www.lulu.com/search?adult_audience_rating=00&page=1&pageSize=10&q=Jeff+Zurowski