HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Obion Summer
Author: Stephen Manley
Publisher: Outskirts Press, 2019
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 13 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Manley, Stephen. Obion Summer (Published in 2019 by Outskirts Press Inc.). Thirteen year old Pamela Arlene (Pam) Ackerman lives in Jackson, a small town in southern Alabama, with her father Samuel or Sam, a lawyer who runs the Jackson office of his family’s Mobile, AL, law firm known as Ackerman, Tate and Prince (AT&P), and her mother Linda, who works in the same law office as a receptionist and secretary. Pam is looking forward to the promising life she sees before her, but then the unthinkable happens as her father abandons the family for another woman and has his wife fired in the process. Her mother must work the whole summer going back to school so that she can get a good job, and Pam is sent to spend the summer with her mother’s widowed sister, Aunt Susan, who is a schoolteacher living in the tiny northwest Tennessee town of Obion. The girl is heartbroken and feels uncertain in this new environment. She doesn’t know how she’ll survive till fall when she can see her mother and friends again.
Then something special happens. Pam sees fourteen year old Anthony Joseph (Tony) Hill, the handsome boy who lives with his family in the house across the street from Aunt Susan’s, and falls in love with him. Will he return her affections? What do they have in common? And how will she cope with having to leave him in the fall when she must return to Alabama? Set in the more innocent time of the very early 1980s before social media and cell phones, Obion Summer is a delightful romance that is age-appropriate for teen readers. There are a few references to drinking alcohol and a couple descriptive scenes of pool parties where the girls wear bikinis. Some parents may wonder if thirteen and fourteen year olds are really quite ready for the kind of situation that develops between Pam and Tony.
However, everything is kept innocent and pure. Pam tells Aunt Susan that she and Tony talked about sex but both agreed that it should wait until marriage. References to Pam’s growing womanhood (breasts and periods) do occur, so this aspect of the plot may seem “mushy” to preteen boys. The book is characterized as a Young Adult (YA)/Coming of Age novel. However, many adults have read it and liked it. It is not “Christian” per se, but definitely focuses on traditional values such as family, community, and abstinence. One reviewer said that it “represents an underserved space in YA literature, a wholesome alternative in an often overly scandalized genre” and called it “a perfect summer reading novel.” Tony and Pam learn how to work together to overcome doubts and challenges to their relationship, all while making each other better people in the process.