cover image The Hidden Summer

The Hidden Summer

Gin Phillips. Dial, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3836-2

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)