by Laurie Gray
Publication Date: May, 2010
List Price: $11.95
Review: A boy lost in adolescence – trying to figure out his own identity. A girl confident in her own being – yet alone in society. Two surprisingly familiar, yet unique characters find friendship and themselves in Summer Sanctuary by Laurie Gray. Matthew is the eldest child in a growing family with four boys and another baby on the way. He is preacher’s kid – which has its own challenges, plus he struggles with the fact that his next youngest brother is taller, faster, and better at sports than he is. While his brother is “Mark the superstar”, Matthew is just Matthew. His best friend, Kyle, is away for the summer, so Matthew is left with the library and his summer independent project for fun. He plans for a boring summer! But, little does he know, Dinah, a girl from a completely different world, will turn a boring summer into the adventure of a lifetime. Dinah is a teenager who is hiding from welfare services and living on the streets until she is able to be reunited with her mother. She knows that if she is put into foster care, her mother might never be able to see her again. She is street-wise and confident, but finds Matthew is the perfect cure for loneliness. Two unlikely teens find themselves in a secret friendship that changes both their lives forever.
Summer Sanctuary is a perfect summer read for young adults. It would be difficult to find a teenager who didn’t grapple with some of the issues Matthew and Dinah face in creating their own identities. Adolescence is a time riddled with insecurity and change, and Laurie Gray has created characters who face those insecurities and struggle with that change, yet in the end come out on top. In Summer Sanctuary, religion plays a significant role. Matthew is from a line of preachers, and is home schooled. His summer independent project is based on the Bible, and this is the one area where the plot might become cloudy for some readers. Matthew’s project, though very intriguing, is unbelievably challenging for most young adolescents. He is spending his summer trying to prove that Einstein’s theory regarding time dilation is actually evident in the Bible – in other words, he wants to prove that if “God is light, and that 1,000 years on earth is like a single day to God . . . . . then time dilation traveling at the speed of light would be like one day equals 1,000 years.” Fortunately, his assignment is not a focal point in the story, but it does weave throughout the book. Readers need to be careful to not get lost in the math! Also, Matthew refers to the Bible quite frequently in his attempts to understand Dinah and life in general. The author does a wonderful job weaving religion into a novel that could be enjoyed by all people – not merely Christians. Still, Christian themes of goodness and providing sanctuary for others, definitely drive the story. Aside from the brilliant, heart-warming story, quite possibly the most enjoyable part of the book is Dinah’s poetry. Both teens are clearly gifted – but in different ways. Dinah’s gift is in the insightful poetry she writes. Laurie Gray could easily publish a compilation of poetry that would be top the charts. The poems in the story are so meaningful, and they serve as a way to bring to light the deeper themes within the plot. For example in one of her shorter poems, she writes:
Sometimes the rest of the world is asleep,
And I find that I’m all by myself.
I realize I’m not what I seem to be,
But neither is anyone else.
With every poem, I found myself stopping and thinking . . . just what good poetry should do. In the end, Summer Sanctuary is an excellent book from first-time novelist Laurie Gray. Hopefully Gray will continue writing and providing quality literature for adolescents with wholesome themes. Parents should be very pleased to find their teen reading Summer Sanctuary.
Review written by Margo Nauert (6th grade teacher).
We would like to thank MM Book Publicity for providing a copy of Summer Sanctuary for this review.
Have you read Summer Sanctuary? How would you rate it?