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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Life, even in a royal palace, can be difficult. Especially for teens who are trying to come to terms with their changing bodies and changing feelings. It takes courage to grow up. It takes courage no matter where you live. For Toby and Olive, it takes courage to overcome the fear of raging fires all around them and to reach out to rescue someone who was never very nice to them. For Toby, in particular, it takes courage to face his shortcomings, his inability to read, and to find a way to prove that he’s not as dumb as some people think. Although Olive never did think he was dumb, she turns out to be a real best friend as she helps Toby overcome this obstacle, as well as the threat of blackmail that challenges Toby’s desire to be good and honest at all times.
Mary Mager’s Middle Grade novel, Under the Summer Sun: A Story of Concordia, is the second book in a series of stories about royal life in a fictional country. The main characters, Toby and Olive, hold honorary positions in the court and, as the King and Queen’s special charges, they are allowed to continue their education with a private royal tutor. The challenges the two young teenagers face are not so different from the challenges that all teenagers face as they mature. The conflict between good and evil is ever-present; the desire to belong, to be part of the in-crowd, is always at the forefront of young peoples’ minds; and then there is that overpowering challenge, the need to appear courageous at all times, even when the circumstances might be dangerous or threatening, and the young person really doesn’t feel at all courageous. Set in a fictional country, with fictional royal characters, the plot develops well. The characters and the dialogue lead this story along. A truly wonderful tale for young readers to enjoy.