After a falling out between their mothers, 13-year-old best friends Nell and Lydia are forbidden from seeing each other for the whole summer. Nell struggles with the thought of not only losing her best friend, but also losing the only person in whom Nell finds refuge from the difficulties she faces at home. Determined to find a place of their own, Nell and Lydia spend the summer hiding out in an abandoned golf course where Nell and Lydia find mysterious symbols scattered throughout the grounds. As they reveal the...
After a falling out between their mothers, 13-year-old best friends Nell and Lydia are forbidden from seeing each other for the whole summer. Nell struggles with the thought of not only losing her best friend, but also losing the only person in whom Nell finds refuge from the difficulties she faces at home. Determined to find a place of their own, Nell and Lydia spend the summer hiding out in an abandoned golf course where Nell and Lydia find mysterious symbols scattered throughout the grounds. As they reveal the secret of the symbols, Nell discovers she isn't the only one seeking haven and begins to uncover what’s really been hidden all along, finally allowing herself to be truly seen.
Hidden Summer is a quietly beautiful coming of age story about self-discovery, family, and friendship. An elegantly written children’s book debut from an award-winning author in the vein of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and for fans of Moon Over Manifest.
Adult novelist Phillips (Come in and Cover Me) makes her children’s book debut with this quiet story about 12-year-old Nell’s escape from daily life with a difficult mother. Teetering on an emotional tightrope at home, Nell relies on her best friend Lydia, whose parents “don’t pay much attention to her but never yell at her,” for comfort and companionship. When Lydia’s mother forbids the girls to see each other over the summer, Nell devises a plan for them to secretly spend their days together on a nearby abandoned golf course. The girls are sympathetic, credible characters, and readers will enjoy their successful execution of a common childhood fantasy, even if the pacing is slow (a homeless family that befriends the girls adds noteworthy interest, but stops short of creating excitement). Nell’s mother is well-drawn in her volatility, demonstrating that a parent needn’t be physically abusive, alcoholic, or drug-dependent to be feared. While Nell grows in maturity and understanding, her desires and motivations are nebulous, and the story never achieves the strong narrative arc or emotional power that would make it memorable. Ages 10–up. (June)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—In contemporary Birmingham, Alabama, sixth-grader Nell has been coping with her mother's emotional volatility and neglect, adjusting to a sequence of stepfathers, and having only alternate-weekend contact with her preoccupied dad. Loving grandparents and a best friend have helped, but now she and Lydia are forbidden to see each other because of a disagreement between their mothers. Nell convinces Lydia to deceive their parents into thinking they are going to remedial summer school; instead they spend their days at an abandoned golf course, setting up camp inside a huge dinosaur statue on the putt-putt green. But a rift develops between them when they discover a homeless family living at Hole Nine, and Nell is drawn to the mother's kindness and interest in her. Lydia leaves, and when Nell helps a boy during a Fourth of July sparkler fire, she begins to confront the reality of her situation and to recognize the steps she must take to face the challenges of her life. The first-person narrative, if sometimes self-conscious, still effectively conveys a strong sense of place and the conflict of a sympathetic protagonist, but some plot elements strain credibility and most characters are insufficiently developed. Nevertheless, readers will be gratified that Nell's resolve and courage in ultimately standing up for herself result in a hopeful conclusion.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
A muted fairy-tale–like story about two 12-year-old girls who spend their summer days at an abandoned mini-golf course. Neither Lydia nor Nell feels loved or appreciated at home; perhaps because of this, they are best friends and each other's support system. When Lydia's cold, self-involved mother has a tiff with Nell's moody, perpetually dissatisfied mother, she forbids Lydia to see Nell. Nell takes action, faking summer programs targeted to appeal to their mothers for both of them: an environmental art camp for Lydia and summer school for her (a psychologically revealing move, as Nell is a straight-A student, something her mother doesn't know and wouldn't be pleased about). Free from parental eyes, the girls decide to spend their days in a place that has always had great emotional resonance for Nell, an abandoned golf and tennis club, complete with a fanciful putt-putt course, and the real meat of the story--Nell's emotional strengthening--begins. Despite a clear plot, the book has a dreamlike quality, and Nell's evolving feelings are so nuanced that it's sometimes difficult to get a handle on what the author is trying to convey. The story ends on a hopeful note; Nell's new perspective lessens her mother's poisonous power, and she learns that it's possible to have two families, "the one you're born with and the one you make yourself." A satisfying psychological journey. (Fiction. 10-15)
Gin Phillips has written critically acclaimed books for adults, and is now making her foray into children’s literature. Her first novel, The Well and the Mine won the 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Gin worked for many years as a freelance magazine editor, and now lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, children, and their dog.