Summer’s Runaway – Book Review


Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Can Hallie hide for the entire summer?”

I read my first book by Rebecca L. Marsh back in 2022, which also happened to be book one in the Princess Island series! When the author announced a second book, set a few years after the first, I couldn’t wait to jump back into life on the island, catch up with some great characters and meet an important new one. A lovely follow up to book one and I’m so happy to be sharing my review for Summer’s Runaway on the book’s blog tour!

About the book

Three and a half years ago, Hallie had a happy home with a loving mother, a father she adored, and doting grandparents she loved to spend summers with. All of that changed when her father’s career in the Army took him to the Middle East where he was killed in action. Hallie never gave much thought to her mother’s angry insistence that her grandparents had pushed him into the Army. But his death caused that anger to seep into her heart. Nothing could convince her to forgive them or ever visit their island home again … or so she thought.

But when a threat arises at home that her mother refuses to believe is real, twelve-year-old Hallie finds herself running away from home to escape. She knows a safe place where she can hide, but she’ll have to go back to the island, regardless of her feelings.

Hallie doesn’t know how long she can stay hidden or if she will be forced to see her grandparents again, but it’s a risk she has to take. No matter what else happens, she will never forgive her grandparents for her father’s death and she can’t go home … not until the end of summer.

The beginning

After a quick read through of my review for book one in this series, Where Hope Is Found, I managed to quickly immerse myself in the author’s words and found it incredibly easy to slide back into this world. It took me no time at all to become acquainted with our new main character, Hallie. Straight away, we know she’s a young girl on the run, trying to get away from something or someone, attempting to keep herself safe and unseen. It was so great hearing names of characters I remembered from book one, Owen and Charlie, and I already had a few questions about the whole situation here and how everyone was connected. A few years have passed since book one, and I found myself wondering what had happened during that time and what we were going to discover this time around. What would these characters have in common? Was there danger close by? I remember just how much I enjoyed book one’s prologue and thought the start of this book also succeeded in making me excited for what was to come!

Mentions of Marissa and Howard from book one gave me a smile, especially as we learn of what happened to them after the first book ended. The author has done such a great job of bringing readers up to speed with some of book one’s details, and it was really nice to have this refresher on some of the previous details and characters that had slipped my mind. The story is told from a few different characters; Hallie, Owen and Charlie, and then Marissa. I hoped there wouldn’t be too many characters to keep on top of later on, but up to now, this seemed like a good amount of different perspectives, especially as I felt I already knew them from book one. It was really nice to read from Marissa’s point of view again, and I was instantly transported to book one and everything she’d gone through. I wondered just how much she’d have to deal with in this book, how involved she’d be in Hallie’s life. I already felt so comfortable with this character, but I guess that’s the beauty of a sequel!

“She squinted to see their faces. Do I remember them? Do they remember me?

There is a real tense feeling throughout the start of the book as Hallie tries to stay hidden in Owen and Charlie’s garage, with Charlie bringing her supplies when she needs them. There were some near misses which had me wondering what would happen if they were caught. Would Owen call her mother and send her back to whatever it was that she’d tried so hard to leave behind? Or would it be the opposite; would Owen be understanding and keep her safe without telling a soul? It isn’t long before Hallie’s cover is blown and we find out Owen’s intentions, but I was so curious to know why she felt she couldn’t be at home with her mother. It had to be something serious. The way the author holds off telling us these details and how we get the subtlest of hints was written well and really kept me guessing! I found the book a delight to keep jumping back into, and always found myself looking forward to what we’d discover about Hallie next.

Conversations between various characters about Hallie and her reason for being on the island far away from her mother were really absorbing, and I felt like I was sat down with these characters working out how best to support Hallie in whatever she’s going through. It was a great scene! It also gave me so many thoughts of what was going on in her home life, about the things she could potentially be scared of. Was she being abused? Was she in danger? Did any of this have anything to do with her step father? I loved how there was a clear goal of rebuilding relationships in this book, not only with Hallie and her family, but also for Owen. After breaking up with Carrie Ann due to them moving and growing at different paces, I just hoped they would compromise or talk about what they wanted and how they could both be happy and satisfied – together. The start of the book was a nice gentle introduction but I knew there’d be so much more buried within the pages later on!

The middle

Hallie became an on/off character for me. One minute, I loved her innocence and felt like I wanted to protect her from whatever she wanted to run from. The next, I became annoyed at her for pushing her grandparents away, for being rude towards them when they’d done nothing wrong, when they’d had nothing but love for her. I do understand that she’s a young character and she’s not actually had a conversation about all this with anyone, but surely she was old enough to understand her father’s death wasn’t anyone’s fault. I hoped there would be a conversation soon to clear the air! I did love how the author had written about Marissa’s PTSD – her husband and eldest daughter died in the water at the start of book one, and going to the beach even years after that event still triggered her. I absolutely love Marissa’s character. I really enjoyed Owen’s own little love story and his feelings for Carrie Ann, even after they’d broken up. I could sense a happy ending for these two!

There was an air of mystery surrounding Maisy’s character (Marissa’s daughter) where she starts to talk to an empty swing on more than one occasion. I wondered if this was her way of grieving her sister, ‘talking’ to her whenever she needed time alone. Swings were Kayla’s thing. Or was there a whole other reason behind it? This was another thing about the book that got me thinking! I was really glad of Owen’s conversation with Hallie. He tried to get her to open up about her feelings and what’s preventing her from speaking to her grandparents. Over time, Hallie thankfully begins to work through her issues and emotions, understanding the truth and realising things weren’t as she thought them to be. It was a relief, and I hoped she’d begin to be a much kinder person (to her grandparents in particular) after understanding things better. I really liked how there were so many avenues, so many story directions in the book involving different characters that all worked so well together.

“When she decided to come to the island for the summer, she hadn’t thought about what it could lead to. She never considered how painful it might become.”

Brilliant, detailed conversations always suck me in, and the emotional, heart-wrenching discussion Hallie has with her grandparents seemed to make up for her rudeness earlier on in the book that turned me off a little. This scene made me smile throughout; it was just lovely! I was so glad the author included this conversation and I felt it really set Hallie up for the next part of her journey. The way she made sure to include them, the way she suggested things to do that she knew her grandparents would love just showed what Hallie was capable of and showed the kindness that was in her heart underneath all that hurt. It was so beautiful to read and it gave me such a nice, warm feeling inside. I could feel this character growing as time passed, her strength and her personality seemed to get stronger with each chapter. I wondered if, after learning the truth, she’d share more information about why she came to the island for the summer and even whether she’d forgive her mother.

The more of this author’s work I read, the more I appreciate how she writes and develops relationships between different characters. You can easily see how they grow over time, something I feel is so beautiful to witness. I loved to compare certain characters from the start of the book to how they are now, and the difference in some of them is so clear (Hallie and Owen in particular!) The author continues to hint at the reason Hallie returned to the island, and with each snippet of information we get, I felt I could piece together what might have happened. But was I right?! I still felt as though I wasn’t quite there without all the details, and the uncertainty and intrigue gave me a huge incentive to keep picking this book back up – aside from enjoying the story of course! With so much left to explore, I was excited to see how the book ended. I really wanted Hallie to feel safe and for the book to end on a positive note.

The end

I had a feeling I knew the reason for Hallie’s runaway before this point, but when she finally opens up to her grandmother about her reasoning and the details, it broke my heart and brought a sick feeling to my stomach. Hallie’s feelings and actions made so much sense and I was thankful that now she’d shared what was troubling her, the right people would be able to help her and keep her safe. The author writes such a serious topic with the care and attention it deserves, but it’s worth noting the content warning for mentions of sexual abuse involving a child, even though no acts are carried out in the book. As well as Hallie opening up, we also see the same from Owen as he tells Marissa why he feels he can’t move forward in his relationship with Carrie Ann, why he’s so reluctant to marry her, no matter how he feels about her. Maybe there’d be positive change for more than one character here if Marissa could encourage him to make a change… I sure hoped so!

To my surprise, Maisy is the third character to open up, even though I wasn’t sure she would at first. Losing her sister was difficult, and in the years that passed, her reasoning for talking to an empty swing and why she’s so reluctant to spend time with her baby sister made so much sense, and I really wanted to reach into the book and give her a hug! It was nice to get a chunk of good news in the book, and it doesn’t end there either. Owen plucks up to courage to do something I wasn’t sure he’d be able to do, and the book suddenly turned into a bit of a romance (which I didn’t mind at all!) Despite all these different directions in the story, the author doesn’t seemed phased by all the loose ends that need tying up. In fact, she seems to thrive in it and does it with ease! I loved reading of how all these characters overcome so many issues, how much happier they become in themselves and in their lives, and I loved thinking about how much more positive their futures were looking.

“Staying at Owen’s house felt safe and feeling safe was important. It was the whole reason she’d run away for the summer in the first place.”

Just when we think these characters are now smooth sailing to a happy ending, the author throws another spanner in the works. Hallie is missing. This brought back so many memories of book one (if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean) and I really felt the panic, the confusion and the concern from all Hallie’s friends and family. As a reader, we’ve got a pretty good idea about what made Hallie shoot off all of a sudden after finally making amends with her grandparents, but it didn’t stop me worrying slightly about where she might be and if she finds herself in trouble. The tense feeling I had throughout this part of the book had me flicking through pages faster than before, desperate to know the outcome. The author sure knows how to keep your attention in times like this! I loved how this small town of people came together when they needed to, doing all they can to search for someone in need. Would Hallie come home? And if she did, would she be forced to return to the mainland with her mother?

The ending chapters were emotional and filled with tense, serious discussion which could make or break Hallie’s happiness, and her future. The author approached this really well and I must applaud her for absolutely nailing it! Despite so much happening and so much to focus on throughout the ending, that final chapter was filled with happiness and it made my heart so happy. It was quite the emotional roller-coaster to say the least! I always love an ending that’s full of positivity and food for thought, and this ending a couple of months into the future is the perfect example of that. I was left thinking about my own life and what’s the most important, as well as what the future holds for all these characters. I’m not 100% sure if the author has a third book in the works for this series, and I can’t think of how a new book would play out, but if she writes one, I’ll be super excited to read it! Another wonderful book which I’d definitely recommend!

Overall thoughts

I can’t help but love Rebecca’s stories and the second book in this series didn’t disappoint! Summer’s Runaway is an emotional, heart-wrenching read, but it is also an uplifting story of forgiveness, fixing broken relationships and opening your heart to new possibilities. I think this theme is what really makes me love this author’s work. The development of her characters and how they grow as people throughout the book was written really well and I was always immersed in every conversation between them. A really well put together sequel, and I looking forward to seeing what this author does next!

A huge thanks once again to the author of this book, Rebecca L. Marsh! You can grab a copy of Summer’s Runaway right now over on Amazon, available in paperback or for your Kindle. Make sure you’re following Rebecca over on Twitter for updates!

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