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.
The Hidden Summer
Great story and characters!