Reviewed by Jennifer Joyce
Sixteen-year-old Helen is facing a long, boring summer. Her mum has left the family home, leaving Helen behind with her father. With no friends nearby, Helen doesn’t relish the idea of those long weeks stretching ahead of her. But then the Dovers, a laidback family who have moved into a rundown cottage for the summer, arrive and welcome Helen into their home. Helen’s summer is unexpectedly filled with fun, laughter and crushes. But by the end of the summer, tragedy will strike and neither Helen’s or the Dovers’ lives will be the same again.
The Summer of Secrets is set both in 1983 and 2013, with the eventful summer taking place in '83. I was looking forward to delving back into Helen’s life, to the summer that has shaped her life. Helen doesn’t seem like a particularly happy woman when we meet her and I was intrigued about her past and the secrets that summer held. I did find the book quite a laboured read at times and felt the plot was bogged down with too much detail, but I kept reading, eager to find out what happened. I can’t say I warmed to Helen but I did feel for her with her home situation. Her mum has left, leaving Helen alone with her father, who isn’t coping well with the separation. Mick is clearly struggling, relying on alcohol to help him through this rough period and he takes his anger out on Helen at times. I found him neglectful and couldn’t understand why Helen’s mum would leave their daughter with him.
I also didn’t warm to Helen’s new friend, Victoria. She could be fun at times and I quite liked the family’s carefree attitude, but Victoria could also be quite mean and cutting with some of the things she says to Helen. Helen almost worships Victoria and the rest of the Dovers family but it seemed like Victoria could take or leave Helen’s friendship, which didn’t give a very balanced basis for the friendship.
After the build up to the tragic event towards the end of the summer, when it actually arrived I felt a bit deflated. A lot of attention had been paid to some days and events that didn’t seem as relevant while very little time was spent on the major event that the book was driving us towards so I was left disappointed by the end. I thought the writing was good but the book didn’t have the impact I was expecting.
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