cover image Summerspell


Jean Thesman. Simon & Schuster, $15 (169pp) ISBN 978-0-671-50130-3

Jocelyn 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)