A summer of change is in store. Kyle Jackowski, just a kid,
goofs around once too often and gets charged with vandalism
and assault. He didn't hit anyone, but a storekeeper
slipped on a broken jar and got hurt. Maybe if his
stepfather was more tolerant, he wouldn't be in this mess.
He can't wait till he's eighteen and can apply to art
college. His lawyer manages to cut him a deal.
LAST OF THE SUMMER TOMATOES sees Kyle sent on a summer farm
work programme, helping the community that has been badly
hit by the recession. He likes the farm family at once,
but he's only seen cows on a website. Dairy comes from a
store, as far as he knows. Walt and Glenda are the
farmers, and Kyle is confused by calling them their first
names, not to mention that when they argue they hug each
other and smile fondly. He hasn't seen adults act this
way. They've even been to college, and he's encouraged to
express his opinions. The food is awesome!
I loved reading about Kyle adapting to milking the cows on
his first morning, and picking tomatoes, with responsible
kindly farmers treating him like a friend's son rather than
hired help. Then their son Sam comes home from college,
and Kyle thinks all his dreams have come true. Sam is the
best looking guy he's seen. But Kyle can't explain that
he's probably gay, because he's been beaten up in the past
just for looking at a guy, and his homophobic stepfather
doesn't mince his words. Sam teaches Kyle riding and fence-
mending, and they easily become friends. After a swim in
the creek, Kyle nervously admits to his attraction - and it
turns out Sam is gay too, and his parents are okay with it.
Sadly, not everyone is.
This is a well written book, so we can see the placid cows
and feel their warm breath, smell the rain ahead of the
approaching storm. Kyle is a very sympathetic character,
shy and helpful, wanting to learn but having a hard time
overcoming his repressive upbringing. Sam admits that his
coming out wasn't completely easy at school, but at college
it's easier. Between first dating and a tolerant town,
it's safe to say that Kyle feels overwhelmed at being
allowed to be himself. The message from author Sherrie
Henry is clear, and repeated; young people need to feel
safe and secure, and to be allowed to be who they are. LAST
OF THE SUMMER TOMATOES is an inspiring read for young folks
Kyle Jackowski, typical sullen emo teen, struggles to find a
way to deal with his sexuality and finds himself in trouble
with the law... again. But instead of being sent to a
juvenile detention center like he expected, he is given a
chance to commute his sentence by working on a farm for the
Enter Sam, son of the farm owners, who shows Kyle what he
feels is perfectly normal and that he doesn't have to hide
from his feelings. In turn, Sam's parents show Kyle that his
abusive stepfather and battered mother are not the norm.
With their love and support, Kyle finds his place in the
world-by Sam's side.