Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson
Summary: Annie has been promised a summer of freedom in the country. Freedom from a difficult school year, freedom from her fake “friends” back in the city, and, most of all, freedom from her mom’s life-governing spreadsheets and rigid schedules. When Annie meets California, who is visiting her grandfather’s farm, it seems she has found the perfect partner for the summer she’s always craved. Especially when California offers Annie a real-life adventure: if she and Annie can find the ponies her mom rode as a girl, surely it will remind her mom how wonderful the farm is—and fix what’s broken between her mom and her grandfather. But Annie’s summer of freedom is sprinkled with secrets, and everything she has learned about bravery and love will be put to the test when the truth behind the ultimate secret changes her life forever.
This is the heartfelt story of Annabel, a girl who has been scheduled within an inch of her life by her well-meaning, spreadsheet-obsessed mother – so much so that she has developed an eating disorder. The family’s therapist convinces Annabel’s parents to give her a summer of freedom in the country, and her mom does her best to overcome her own control issues to let that happen. Annabel soon meets California, the wild granddaughter of a local farmer, and gets drawn into California’s quest to find the ponies her mother rode as a child. California is convinced that finding them will bring together her own mother and grandfather, who have been estranged from one another since long before her birth. Inspired by California, Annabel asserts her independence by christening herself Annie, and soon learns to stand up for herself in her own family. The shifting patterns of family relationships are beautifully chronicled – Annie’s mom adjusting to her daughter’s new confidence, Annie’s dad putting aside his peacekeeping tendencies for the greater good, and Annie herself gaining the courage to be honest with her parents. And the deepening friendship of the two girls grows them both as people, even as the secret behind California’s quest forces them both to face the unfairness of the world. A beautiful coming-of-age story of friendship, family, loss, and hope.
SWING SIDEWAYS is out now.