Amor and Summer Secrets is the debut novel by young adult author Diana Rodriguez Wallach. The novel opens with a scene in which the main character, fifteen-year-old Mariana Ruiz, finds herself the level-headed mediator in a typical family argument between her enthusiastically rebellious older brother and her hard-working strict father. A typical upper-middle class American teenager, Mariana would rather be hanging out by the pool or shopping with her two inseparable BFFs. She looks forward to attending her best friend’s upcoming Sweet Sixteen birthday party, which promises to be Philadelphia’s teen event of the season.
It turns out that her Puerto Rican father and Polish mother have other plans for Mariana and her brother, Vince, this summer. They feel that it is a good time for their teenage offspring to travel to Puerto Rico, stay with relatives they’ve never met, and connect with their Puerto Rican heritage. While Vince is excited by the prospect of travelling before he goes off to college at Cornell in the fall, Mariana, on the other hand, is devastated and resentful at the prospect of going to a place that is altogether foreign to her and missing the summer with her friends. She does not foresee the new experiences, developing family bonds, potential love interest, and hidden secrets that await her on the tropical island where her father was born.
My father was determined to ship us off to some island he hadn’t laid eyes on in thirty-five years. It was a literal “guilt trip” — his twisted way of making up for ignoring his family there — and even worse, for having been successful here.
This book is a quick read that would likely be appreciated by any teenage girl who enjoys romance and young adult drama. While some of the characters seem a bit superficial and two-dimensional, several of the other characters make up for it in the roles that they play throughout the story. Older brother Vince is featured in a few humorous scenes that would be enjoyed by males and females alike, and Mariana is able to confront some of her own character flaws throughout the events that unfold in a very believably human way.
The end of story cliff-hangar definitely leaves one curious as to what happens next. Fortunately, Mariana fans won’t have to wait to find out. Amor and Summer Secretswas released in September 2008 as part of Kensington publisher’s new line of young adult fiction. It is the first in a quick succession series of books. The second novel, Amigas and School Scandals, was just released last week, and the third book, Adios to All the Drama, will be released next month in December 2008.