Punishment Summer by Peggy Rothschild

Punishment Summer by Peggy Rothschild
Punishment Summer by Peggy Rothschild
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (194 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Sixteen-year-old Nicki is sent to stay at her grandfather’s cabin near the town of Punishment in the Mendocino Forest. As always, she hides her burn scars and keeps quiet about the mother who ran out on her. But soon after arriving, she begins to suspect Grandpa is also keeping secrets. Her exile brings an unexpected bright spot—Grandpa’s German shepherd, Queenie. The hunky neighbor boy’s another plus, though she quickly starts to doubt his honesty.

From secret pot farms to human trafficking, Nicki discovers nothing in the ‘Mendo’ is what it seems. When Grandpa takes off and the lives of new friends are endangered, Nicki must decide how far she’s willing to go to protect those she cares about. Before summer ends, Nicki will learn there are some choices she can’t undo.

It’s a good thing Grandpa taught her how to shoot.

You can’t get into any mischief while living in the middle of the woods, right?

It took a while for the mystery elements of this tale to surface. For a while I actually wondered if they were going to show up at all because there were so many other things going on at the same time. Once the mystery did reveal itself, though, I was immediately caught up in trying to solve it. The clues were seamlessly woven into Nicki’s strange summer with a grandfather she barely knows. I really enjoyed seeing how this part of the storyline unfolded because of all of the time and effort the author clearly put into constructing it.

The romantic subplot never worked for me. I had trouble finding the chemistry between the characters involved in it. I liked them both as individuals and could see them developing a friendship, but their wildly different personalities, backgrounds, and interests simply didn’t translate into a good fit for anything more than that for this reader.

One of the things I appreciated the most about the characters was how real they felt. Their flaws weren’t small or easily fixed. Their problems couldn’t be solved with a cup of tea or an inspirational speech. In short, they came across as genuine and three dimensional. Did I always approve of what they said and did? Most definitely not. I did understand where they were coming from, though, and why they made most of their choices.

There was a plot hole that I would have liked to see more attention paid to. It’s difficult to go into detail about it without giving away spoilers, but it involved a character making a decision that I never would imagined they would make given everything I’d observed about them earlier. If anything, I would have expected them to do the exact opposite based on how they acted in general. It would have been really helpful to have more information about why they made this choice so that I could understand why those scenes were written this way.

Living in an incredibly isolated, rural area requires all kinds of skills that people who live in cities and suburbs don’t typically learn. It was really interesting to see how Nicki adjusted to her summer home, especially since it wasn’t someplace she had chosen to visit in the first place. Ms. Rothschild did a good job showing what it’s like to adapt to the rhythms of this kind of environment.

Punishment Summer isn’t only for teenagers. This is the kind of book I’d recommend to adults just as much as I would to the young adult audience it was written for!

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