Nell Dare expected to spend her summer vacation hanging out with her friends in New York City. That is, until her botanist mom dragged her all the way to Roanoke Island for a research trip. To make matters worse, her father suddenly and mysteriously leaves town, leaving no explanation or clues as to where he went—or why.
While Nell misses the city—and her dad—a ton, it doesn’t take long for her to become enthralled with the mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. And when Nell meets Ambrose—an equally curious historical reenactor—they start exploring for clues as to what really happened to the lost colonists. As Nell and Ambrose’s discoveries of tantalizing evidence mount, mysterious things begin to happen—like artifacts disappearing. And someone—or something—is keeping watch over their quest for answers.
It looks like Nell will get the adventurous summer she was hoping for, and she will discover secrets not only about Roanoke, but about herself.
Such fun! This is a perfect summer book – particularly if you’re looking for something to tuck into a middle-grade reader’s suitcase on the way to a family vacation. I picture reading this one on a blanket on the beach, in between dips in the ocean, maybe while munching on watermelon slices…
Nell Dare is a terrific main character. She’s a city girl through and through, and can’t think of anything more perfect than spending the summer in Manhattan with her best friend. When her dad takes off and her mother forces her to spend time on a weird island to help with research about an old vine, things are definitely not going as planned.
Nell becomes enthralled by the mysteries of Roanoke Island, famous for its lost colonists — the early settlers in the late 1500s who disappeared without a trace, a mystery unsolved to this day. Nell makes a “frenemy” of another girl her age, Lila, who’s also determined to get to the bottom of the lost colony. The race is on! Nell pursues clues with the help of a charming but slightly odd boy, learning her way around the island — but also learning how to get along without subways or taxis, enjoying the forests and dunes and learning the fine art of traveling by bicycle.
There’s a lot of heart in the story, as Nell’s summer is spent worrying about her father’s disappearance and what it means. Neither parent will tell her straight out, so Nell is left to guess and feel bad. She worries too that her best friend back in New York will replace her while she’s gone, and the speed at which texts are answered become talismans for the state of their friendship.
Finally, Nell learns a lot about finding a direction and charting her own path, asking for answers, and sticking things out.
But that’s true, right? Sometimes it’s the places we think we know the best that hold the most secrets: our streets, our backyards, and even our homes.
Nell’s summer adventure, investigating the mysteries of Roanoke, ultimately allows her to find out more about herself and her family. Along the way, she explores friendship and loneliness, and figures out that she needs to stand up and makes things happen herself.
Summer of Lost and Found is a charming middle-grade novel about a summer of discoveries — discoveries about the past, about things that are lost, and about commitment and family. Highly recommended for moms and daughters — this would make a great summer book to share!
Interested in this author? Check out my review of her previous novel, When Audrey Met Alice.
Title: Summer of Lost and Found
Author: Rebecca Behrens
Publication date: May 24, 2016
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Middle grade fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing