Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Lois Lowry’s first novel, A Summer to Die, was inspired by her relationship with her older sister, Helen, who eventually died of cancer. The book is narrated by thirteen-year-old Meg Chalmers, an artist and budding photographer, and treats the events of a pivotal year in her life. During that year, Meg is forced to confront jealousy and guilt, death and grief, as she comes to terms with the loss of her sister. At the same time, she begins to discover her own self-worth by developing her talents and making new friends.

As the novel begins, Meg feels inadequate compared to her seemingly perfect fifteen-year-old sister, Molly, an attractive cheerleader for whom everything seems to come easily. When their father, an English professor, moves the family to a small farmhouse in the country, both girls are unhappy. Meg must give up her Saturday morning photography classes, and Molly must quit cheerleading. In addition, the two girls are forced to share a room for the first time, which creates further tension, provoking Molly to draw a line down the middle of their room.

In February, Meg finds some consolation in helping her father build a darkroom so that she can develop her own photographs. One day in March, after Molly and Meg have had another argument, Molly begins to feel very ill and is rushed to a hospital in Portland, Maine. When Molly returns home, she seems weak and depressed. When Molly is hospitalized again, Meg blames herself...

(The entire section is 531 words.)