Reviews for Hidden Summer
Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
For Nell, the end of sixth grade should mean the beginning of long summer days with her best friend, Lydia, not with her troubled mom. So when their mothers quarrel and Lydia's mom refuses to let her hang out with Nell, it's time for a drastic plan. After faking a required summer-school term for Nell and a free camp for Lydia, they spend long, hot days together on an abandoned golf course near their homes. All is not idyllic, even in the bizarre mini-golf structure sheltering an otherwise homeless but relatively happy family. Concrete details help bring the unusual setting to life, while Nell's home life and her mother's emotional instability fall more clearly into perspective the longer she stays away. This realistic novel is narrated by its sympathetic protagonist, who struggles within the broken and barely mended family she has while working to create a more supportive network beyond it. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #5
Nell and Lydia are best friends, both daughters of neglectful, selfish mothers. When they're forbidden to spend time together because their moms have argued, Nell devises a way for them to meet at Lodema, an abandoned golf and mini-golf course. While their mothers think they're at camp and summer school, respectively, the girls move in to the fanciful structures of the mini-golf course, where they explore the pleasures of overgrown fairways and gone-wild ponds. But they aren't the only golf-course dwellers, and as July progresses, Nell's community begins to expand, deepening her freedom from her mother and giving her a clearer sense of self. This is a story of leisurely self-discovery and emotional survival, a serene, thoughtful mix of family difficulties and summer magic. The image of the overgrown golf course as a home to summer campers is tantalizing in itself, all the more so because Nell's sojourn there is trouble-free, even though the home she returns to is not. The characters of the girls' mothers are not well developed (and they are overly susceptible to Nell's forged letters about camp) and Nell herself has a rather mature penchant for self-analysis, but her inner life and questions are at the heart of adolescent growth. deirdre f. baker Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 May #1
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) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 May #1
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) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2013 July
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 [Page 84]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.