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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Summer of the Shark is a young adult coming-of-age novel written by DiVitto Kelly. Summer had literally just begun. Ryan Sullivan was twelve years old, already a gifted pitcher and filled with plans for every single day of the summer -- even the rainy ones. But his parents wanted him to go visit his dad’s father in Massachusetts. Ryan’s grandmother had passed away only a few months earlier, and his grandfather was having a hard time adjusting to her loss. Ryan wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect. The whole summer? But that would spoil everything! Couldn’t someone else do it? But no, he was the only candidate in his parents’ eyes. The only consolation was that his grandfather had mentioned a surprise only he would appreciate, a surprise with fins and pointy teeth, lots of them. Ryan was keen on sharks and knew just about everything about them, including their affinity for the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe there would be something to salvage this summer after all.
Summer of the Shark is a marvelous summer read no matter what your age. It’s 1974, and the movie Jaws was being filmed on Martha’s Vineyard which just happens to be where Ryan’s grandfather lives. Reading this book frequently made me hungry as life on Martha’s Vineyard means endless opportunities for lobster rolls and seafood goodies of all kinds, followed by ice cream sundaes. It also had me seriously considering whether the area’s harsh and prolonged winters were really that awful after all. Something about that magic, the surf, the sounds of the waves, the salty air, and incredible seafood made moving there seem incredibly appealing and virtually irresistible. Then there’s the nighttime fishing and the baseball…so much for so many.
I had a grand time reading Summer of the Shark. In a stroke of serendipity, I had watched Jaws for the second time ever just a few weeks before reading this book. Scenes from the movie scrolled through my mind as I read about Ryan and his grandfather Artie’s roles as extras in the shore scene and the details of their encounter with one of the movie’s stars as well as the mechanical shark. Kelly’s book is well-written, his characters fairly leap off the page, and living vicariously that iconic summer Ryan spends with his grandfather is an absolutely brilliant experience. Summer of the Shark is most highly recommended.