Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyJocelyn has spent a miserable two years living with her half-sister, Hope, and Hope's husband, Gerald, a bigoted, mean-minded preacher. Pushed to the breaking point by Gerald's emotional and sexual abuse (the full extent of which is revealed gradually), Jocelyn takes off for Summerspell, her late grandparents' cabin in the woods, planning to hide there for the several days it will take for her great-aunt to be named her legal guardian. Against her will, Jocelyn is joined by taciturn, self-reliant Baily (a school friend and possible love interest), and an awkward, abrasive African American teenage drifter known as Spider. At Summerspell Jocelyn comes to terms with the loss of her cherished past, sorts out her feelings for Baily and uncovers the reasons behind Spider's peculiar behavior. Though somewhat contrived, the tragedy that cuts short the teenagers' idyll emphatically reinforces the story's central theme: that no matter how difficult, it is essential to tell the truth. This novel lacks the wrenching momentum of When the Road Ends, Thesman's other kids-in-a-cabin story, but it combines intriguing characterizations and a deftly evoked wilderness setting with a bittersweet tone mixing melancholy and hope. Ages 12-up. (June)
School Library JournalGr 7-10-Jocelyn, 15, runs away to escape the sexual advances of her brother-in-law and legal guardian. Gerald is a cruel, gun-toting fundamentalist minister who, in order to intimidate her, cuts down a tree and destroys a heron nest that she has been protecting. Jocelyn seeks refuge at Summerspell, a cabin by a lake, where she had spent happy times with her grandparents before their deaths. Baily, a classmate, insists on coming with her and things are futher complicated when a mysterious, hyperactive, black teen named Spider, who is a girl disguised as a boy, also shows up at the idyllic, deserted spot. Eventually, Gerald learns where Jocelyn is and comes after her. In a chillingly horrific scene, the enraged man shoots and kills Spider; he later takes his own life. There are many elements to this contemporary, realistic novel including environmental concerns; sexual abuse; dysfunctional families; and racial bigotry. Unfortunately, the parts never meld together so that the story becomes a satisfying whole. The first-person narrative is at times compelling and authentic as the main character reacts to a series of tragic events. However, the story itself is less convincing since it hinges on the actions of a character such as Gerald who is so one-dimensional and evil that his final violent acts are anticlimactic rather than cathartic. This novel is definitely not of the same quality as Thesman's Cattail Moon (1994) or The Rain Catchers (1991, both Houghton).-Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA
Stephanie ZvirinWhen Jocelyn runs away, classmate Baily follows her to a crumbling old cabin, Summerspell, intending to wait with her until her great-aunt can arrange to legally wrest her from the grasp of her crazy brother-in-law, Gerald. It seems that Gerald has been sexually harassing her, and Jocelyn has had enough. Her return to the cabin, where she spent happy summers with her grandparents, is a symbolic return to safety and innocence. Unfortunately, Jocelyn's fantasy collides with Baily's stubborn refusal to leave her alone and with the arrival of Spider, an odd, nervous youngster who obviously has something to hide. A complex web of lies and secrets rests at the heart of the story, which is at once tantalizingly mysterious and melodramatic and murky. With the exception of handsome, brooding Baily, who remains an enigma, everything finally comes together, but it will most likely be the shocker of a climax--right out of the headlines--that leaves the strongest impression.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Summerspell based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
The author masterfully conveys the ominous terror that smothers what should be a fanciful and happy 'Huck Finn' adventure. The characters eerily carry their memories of the past forward to the present in an attempt to restore some semblance of order to their unstable lives. The story comes to a dizzily rushed conclusion that could perhaps have been more intricately woven throughout the book. The ending was a hard bullet to swallow but bluntly realistic.