Welcome to Day #4 of The Summer of Broken Things Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of The Summer of Broken Things on April 10th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Margaret Peterson Haddix and 10 chances to win a copy of the book!
When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I sat down and made a list of things I most wanted to achieve or experience in my lifetime.
“Write a book,” was on that list.
So was, “Have a conversation entirely in a foreign language.”
It’s telling that as a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old I didn’t even specify which foreign language I wanted to converse in. Growing up in rural Ohio in the late 1970’s, I’d had so little contact with any language but English that everything else seemed to fit in the same category.
But, oh, was I ever fascinated with that other category. In high school I studied Spanish, and in college I studied French and spent a semester taking classes in Luxembourg, partly with the goal of improving my French skills.
And one of the things I learned in both high school and college was how bad I am at any language besides English. Sure, I could memorize vocabulary lists and verb conjugations easily enough; I could understand the basic structure of other languages and read and write both Spanish and French well enough to keep my teachers and professors happy. But speak and listen and understand and respond?
Isn’t there a translator available?
Midway through my semester abroad, I went to a café in Nancy, France, with my friend Eileen, and the two of us had a long, involved conversation in French with two university students from Morocco comparing our countries and our school experiences, and their difficulties being Moroccan immigrants in France vs. the welcome we received as Americans. The Moroccans didn’t know any English, so we never had that as a fallback. (We also didn’t have Google Translate or anything similar–it was the 1980’s, after all.) I decided on the spot that that counted as my conversation in a foreign language; I’d achieved my goal.
But truth be told, Eileen had held up more of our side of the conversation; my contributions were more along the lines of, “Oui?” and “Comment…?”
When I wrote THE SUMMER OF BROKEN THINGS, I wanted to give my main characters, Kayla and Avery, both the fascination and the frustration I’ve felt attempting languages I’m not competent to speak. I threw them into an intensive Spanish class, and gave them friends who either didn’t know English or avoided speaking it, so they had to rely on the Spanish. (I also made Avery’s dad refuse to activate her iPhone for use in Spain, so they couldn’t fall back on that, either.)
I let Kayla start pondering the differences between languages, how the Spanish, “Me llamo…” gets translated as “My name is…,” but that’s not literally what it means. And if you’re just telling someone to call you a certain name, not what your name is, doesn’t that give you room to hide?
I also let both girls experience moments when words fail them—both in English and in Spanish. And, ultimately, I let them develop a little bit of a language of their own.
Because the official languages aren’t the only “foreign” ones. And what I was really expressing, making that list as a teenager, was that I wanted to be able to communicate with and understand someone who wasn’t like me.
And I have achieved that in my lifetime.
So do Avery and Kayla during their summer of broken things.
Blog Tour Schedule:
From New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix comes a haunting novel about friendship and what it really means to be a family in the face of lies and betrayal.
Fourteen-year-old Avery Armisted is athletic, rich, and pretty. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Butts is known as “butt-girl” at school. The two girls were friends as little kids, but that’s ancient history now. So it’s a huge surprise when Avery’s father offers to bring Kayla along on a summer trip to Spain. Avery is horrified that her father thinks he can choose her friends—and make her miss soccer camp. Kayla struggles just to imagine leaving the confines of her small town.
But in Spain, the two uncover a secret their families had hidden from both of them their entire lives. Maybe the girls can put aside their differences and work through it together. Or maybe the lies and betrayal will only push them—and their families—farther apart.
Margaret Peterson Haddix weaves together two completely separate lives in this engaging novel that explores what it really means to be a family—and what to do when it’s all falling apart.
About the Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularlyChildren of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio.
acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the
- One (1) winner will receive a finished copy of The Summer of Broken Things
- US only