Review Blog

Feb 10 2010

Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes

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Oxford University Press, 2009.
(9+)Highly recommended. Eddie feels like a fish out of water after being sent to stay with his Auntie Kath and ghastly cousins, while his Mum recovers from a serious illness. He's an outdoor kind of lad and escapes his disco dancing, gaming obsessed cousins to encounter the excitement of caving in the Mendip hills. Here he bumps into Gwerren, a new age girl who knows the caves like the back of her hand and is happy to introduce Eddie to more fun than a day out at Alton Towers. When one of Eddie's cousins falls into a concealed cave, Eddie tries to rescue him and discovers the secret of Gwerren's existence. Meanwhile Wilf, an elderly relative, who lives with Auntie Kath, is about to be packed off to a ghastly old people's home. Eddie feels a strong affinity with the old man and is determined to to save him from this appalling fate, so he and Gwerren hatch a daring plan.
I became a huge fan of Ali Sparkes after devouring Frozen in Time and although her latest novel may be called Dark Summer it is a sparkling read with a fantastic plot that weaves the many strands into a satisfying conclusion. I was particularly impressed by Sparkes' ability to bring the setting of the Mendip Hills to breathtaking life. Her characterisation is also strong and I felt like hissing every time Auntie Kath appeared and cheering at Eddie's determination to protect the elderly Wilf.
Sparkes has a knack for keeping the excitement and suspense simmering, while at the same time covering the more thoughtful issues of fitting in, friendship, the generation gap and lost opportunities. This should appeal to able readers, both boys and girls, from about 9 to 13, who enjoy adventure and mystery and are looking for something more substantial to get their teeth into.
Claire Larson

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