The uncomfortable transition through puberty is developed as the friends struggle with new pressures in the areas of makeup, elaborate hairstyles and newly discovered crushes. This certainly isn’t unusual, but our family normally avoids fashion and romantic references in reading material for our children – twelve or thirteen is nowhere near being ready for marriage. However, Morris keeps levels low, with awkwardness, blushes, “cute boys” and heightened awareness making up the bulk of such references. In a sex-saturated market (even for 'tweens/teens) I must give her credit from refraining from more overt interactions that many titles for young readers are now including. On the wholesome scale Summer Secret still ranks high.
With four main characters and rapid scene changes between the girls to follow the changes each of them faces, Summer Secret is unable to be a character-driven novel at 148 pages. It reminds me strongly of the novels for young people that I read in elementary school: Sweet Valley High, Babysitters Club and other girl “club” series. Each character is introduced, their likes, dislikes, appearance and personality is sketched out and we’re off into the adventure of puberty! As an adult I’m not fond of such set ups, but 'tweens gobble these series’ up like candy (and so did I at that age).
Morris excels, setting herself apart from the norm by providing a guiding set of Christian values for girls who are navigating the emotional white water that life throws at them. I wish that such a series had been available as an alternative to the fluff I was reading at this age. Morris offers guidance that rests on the rock of Jesus Christ, shining His light into these difficult years. If your daughter is binging on girly books that don’t direct her to Christ, set her up with the Sonshine Girls - they’ll steer her straight.