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Title: The Summer of Moonlight Secrets
Author: Danette Haworth
Published By: Walker Childrens (2010)
Synopsis: 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. (Taken from Goodreads.)
This was a very…interesting read, and by interesting I refer to the plotline.
The characters were very vividly described, well drawn and developed; I loved the author’s choice of names and I felt like I could truly connect with each character. They were easy to love and easy to relate to. I thought the author did a good job with switching perspectives—between Chase and Allie Jo—and wrote each character with their own distinctive personalities. So in terms of character growth and development, the author did an excellent job.
The setting was a fun, realistic place as well, described skillfully and written in a way you feel like the Meriwether could truly exist. The secret passageways were intriguing, and despite the fact they were never really explored, they were a fun addition to the plotline.
But the storyline was another story. (No pun intended.) I felt it was rather overdramatic, slightly forced, and too unrealistic. For example, take Tara, the main mystery of the novel. She is hiding out at the hotel, taking midnight swims in her one pair of clothes, hiding out again, and somehow eating. Yet, nobody notices her and nobody knows she’s there—except Allie Jo and Chase (who were somehow persuaded into secrecy just by a few words). I found this whole circumstance incredibly unrealistic. This hotel she’s hiding at—the place Allie Jo lives at—is a high-up, important place from the author’s descriptions. Someone would have noticed her! Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal; a lot of authors can get away with this. But the way this author wrote it made it seem just way too unnatural.
Secondly, when the mystery of Tara is unraveled, I found it very strange—not strange as in bad, just strange—and just not matching the style of the story at all. I understand the author is probably trying to be creative, in creating a different solution to the mystery, rather than the obvious one expected—but seriously? Instead, the answer to the mystery of Tara is so bizarre and unheard of that I wasn’t even sure what the author was talking about at first. It just didn’t line up to the rest of the story and seemed off-balance…just too fantastical compared to the rest of the book.
The Summer of Moonlight Secrets did have some nice themes and great characters. But the plot twist I’ve described above was just too unusual…that while I definitely found it enjoyable, it was not a book I loved, and most likely one I will not be reading again.
Recommended to: Not recommended. 8-10 yrs.