Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: The Summer of Moonlight Secrets

Summary: A summer tale full of magical wonder and starring an unforgettable antebellum hotel.

At The Meriwether, Florida's famous antebellum hotel off of Hope Springs, nothing is quite as it seems. Secret staircases give way to servants' quarters and Prohibition-era speakeasies make for the perfect hide-and-seek spot. Allie Jo Jackson knows every nook and cranny of The Meriwether—she's lived there her whole life—and nothing surprises her, until the first time she spots the enigmatic and beautiful Tara emerging from the springs. Tara's shimmery skin, long flowing hair, and strange penchant for late moonlight swims disguise a mysterious secret—and once Allie Jo and her friend Chase discover Tara's secret, nothing will ever be the same.

From the celebrated author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning comes another magical summer tale full of memorable characters and a one-of-a-kind setting. -- Walker

As a mother of a tween girl, I have been reading a fair amount of middle grade fiction. I've been pleasantly surprised by how many middle grade books are just fantastic. I'm so excited to say that I've discovered another one. This time it's THE SUMMER OF MOONLIGHT SECRETS by Danette Haworth.

THE SUMMER OF MOONLIGHT SECRETS is just a wonderful story. Without a doubt, I consider it a magical story and not just because there is a little "magic" in the it. It really is a special book for so many reasons. It has a little something for everyone -- there are memorable (and likable ) characters that children will relate to, there is a bit of suspense and mystery, there is an element of magic, and there are terrific messages about friendship and loyalty. I just can't rave enough about it!

At its core, this novel is about Allie Jo and Chase, two kids who become friends during a summer when they are living in Allie Jo's parents' hotel. When they both meet Tara, a mysterious runaway, they work together to hide Tara's secrets while at the same time trying to do what's best for her. Tara's entrance into their life brings about a lot of excitement for the two tweens and their lives are forever changed.

I liked how Ms. Haworth incorporated a little suspense and mystery as well as magic into this story. And I think kids are going to love the supernatural aspect because it's so much fun. Like one of the characters, I found myself questioning what was real versus imaginary. And I couldn't put the book down because I was so curious to figure out the truth. I won't give any spoilers, but I will say that I was very happy with the conclusion.

I was also extremely impressed with Ms. Haworth's writing style. I loved the idea for this story, but she managed to tell it in such a beautiful way. Her writing and descriptions are beautiful, and I think she described the hotel with such vivid detail that it actually became another character. I also really appreciated how she told the story through the different voices of the characters. I thought she did a great job of bringing each of the characters to life, and I think they were all well-developed and very believable.

I found myself loving Allie Jo, Chase and Tara -- each for a different reason. But I especially felt an affinity with Allie Jo. She was so sweet and responsible and truly appreciative of her family and her home, yet she also had those insecurities associated with the tween years. She wasn't one of the popular girls, and my heart went out to her because she was actually afraid to talk with them. One of the life lessons that Allie Jo eventually learned in this novel was that she didn't need to fear these girls or be embarrassed. She came to recognize her inner beauty and she gained self-confidence in the process.

Last year, my daughter read Ms. Haworth's other novel VIOLET RAINES ALMOST GOT STRUCK BY LIGHTNING and really enjoyed it. When she saw that I was reading her new novel, she brought down her copy for me to read. I haven't gotten around to reading VIOLET RAINES yet, but you better be sure that I will be reading it in the very near future. In the meantime, Booking Daughter is anxiously awaiting for me to give her THE SUMMER OF MOONLIGHT SECRETS!

THE SUMMER OF MOONLIGHT SECRETS is exactly the type of book that I love for mother-daughter book clubs -- it would be a perfect pick! Not only is it a book that tweens and moms will enjoy, but it also has some fantastic messages. Some of the themes you might find to discuss include friendship, family dynamics, parent/child relationships, first love, responsibility, honesty, acceptance, forgiveness, and self-confidence. I also think this novel lends itself to a discussion of some ethical dilemmas as well as sound judgment calls.

I'm sure you can tell by now how much of a treat THE SUMMER OF MOONLIGHT SECRETS was for me. As a mom, I think it's a perfect read for tweens. But I also know that kids and grown-ups alike will enjoy this magical story!

Thanks to the author for sending me a review copy of this novel.


Sandy Nawrot said...

It makes my heart soar to see this glowing review. I am honored to call Danette a friend...she lives just on the other side of town, and we have met several times, and we e-mail each other (usually about American Idol). Violet Raines is precious, as well as this one (my review is up today as well!). She has such a wonderful literary voice, and so totally captures the essence of the "real" Florida. There are so many memorable things in this story...the old hotel (the garden room!), the springs, the blueberry pancakes! Danette will be thrilled at this review.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I just read Sandy's review too. This sounds like a lovely book!

Jenny Girl said...

This sounds like a lovely book. I'll be picking this up to indulge my tween side :)
Thanks for the review Julie.

Danette Haworth said...

Thank you so much for the fantastic and generous review. You made my day!

Beth F said...

Although I don't read a lot of MG fiction anymore (my niece is 15!), I am still interested. I'll have to but this author on my radar.