Title: That Burning Summer
Author: Lydia Syson
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Published Date: January 31, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
My Rating: ★ ★ ★
It’s July 1940 on the south coast of England. A plane crash-lands in the marsh, and sixteen-year-old Peggy finds its broken pilot—a young Polish airman named Henryk. Afraid and unwilling to return to the fight, Henryk needs a place to hide, and Peggy helps him find his way to a remote, abandoned church.
Meanwhile, Peggy’s eleven-year-old brother Ernest is doing his best to try to understand the war happening around him. He’s reading all the pamphlets—he knows all the rules, he knows exactly what to do in every situation. He’s prepared, but not for Peggy’s hidden pilot.
Told in alternating points of view, this is a beautifully written story about growing up in wartime and finding the difference between following the rules and following your heart.
When I first heard about this book, I figured it was going to be a little bit like Summer of my German Soldier (did anyone else have to read that in middle school?). So I was pretty excited for it considering this one is set in Britain and I was curious to see how different it would be. Instead, it's about a Polish pilot and British girl brought together in a very different way than one might expect.
Told from three different perspectives Henryk, Peggy, and Ernest.
Peggy while young and sheltered is now trying to learn more about what's happening to her country and her family, but her mom and aunt try to protect her and keep her away from what is truly happening around them. While they want her to grow up, they also don't want her to lose her innocence and hope for the world. This is something that annoys Peggy, and she tries to do everything she can to try and show them she can handle what's happening.
Then we have Ernest the naive and extremely nervous young brother. He is so focused on following all of the new rules that the government is putting out to try and keep the people protected, that he forgets them which makes him even more nervous. He is also having to deal with bullying because of something his father has done, that he doesn't know about.
Henryk the Polish pilot whose plane has gone down and he is terrified and unsure of what to do now. He doesn't want to fly anymore, but he knows he can't leave the service either because of how needed pilots are and because of where he has come from.
This is when Peggy and Henryk meet and even though Peggy is afraid of him because she doesn't know about Polish pilots working for Britain and because she thinks he could be a spy. Sadly for her, he's not a spy, instead, he is just a young man far from home that believes he has nothing left of his old life.
Overall I did enjoy this story, sadly it just wasn't what I was expecting and let's face it recently we've been spoiled with very complex WWII stories. This one is more of just a quick and easy read that teaches you about something that has never been talked about in a YA novel before.
The main reason this book didn't work for me though, is because I never grew attached to the characters, it's just like they were there and that was it. We read about the struggles and the possible dangers they were facing, but you never feel scared for the or worried about the life changing consequences they could face.
I did find it absolutely fascinating to learn about Polish pilots and how they continued on even after their country had fallen to the Germans and were willing to fight for any allied country that would take them.