SUMMER AT PARADISE RANCH is a great coming of age adventure with young romance and mystery in paradise. Now in eBook, print, and audio.
Four months shy of turning sixteen, Lexi Montoya was still trying to come to terms with her parents’ divorce and her mom’s remarriage to a man she met online, relocating to Maui, Hawaii.
Choosing to remain with her dad in Seattle, Lexi had planned to spend her first summer since the divorce hanging out with her boyfriend, Matt, and best friend, Robin. But her dad had other plans, insisting she spend the summer visiting her mom and stepdad at his ranch called Paradise Ranch in Wailuku, in west Maui.
Lexi went there with an attitude. Then she meets a cute Hawaiian guy named Mitsuo, is thrown into a love triangle, become friends with a teen girl living on a ranch next door, April; rides her first horse– an Arabian mare named Poppy– learns to hula dance and surf, and finds herself embroiled in a dangerous rescue mission when Poppy and another horse named Casper go missing from her stepfather’s ranch.
By the time her tropical summer adventure comes to an end, Lexi hates to leave Maui and say goodbye to Mitsuo. But can she stay when Matt is waiting for her back at home to pick up where they left off? Or will he lose her to a summer romance?
Told from four different points of view, Summer at Paradise Ranch has a lot going on, but the author manages to hold it all tightly together. The past-tense, third person point of view is definitely a departure from most young adult fiction I’ve read lately and took a little getting used to, but once I did, I got into the story.
R. Barri Flowers’ style is also a little different from other YA authors. It feels more detached, like I wasn’t necessarily feeling all the angst I normally do when reading about teens. But in this case, it kept the story flowing without bogging the reader down in unnecessary, although quite often typical, adolescent drama.
The plot is busy, from Lexi’s relationship with the mother who abandoned her and her father to run off to Hawaii with a guy she met online, to her conflicted feelings for two very different, but equally hot, boys, her adventures on Maui, and the horsenapping mystery. The story flows well enough, but we never get too deeply involved in any of the plot points because they all seem to be rather easily resolved. Not without conflict, but without the sort of escalating conflict that leaves you breathless. But sometimes a good story doesn’t need to be over-the-top and out of control. This is one of those times.
What I liked most is the relationship between Lexi and Mitsuo. At not quite 16, she realizes a summer romance doesn’t have to mean anything more than that and doesn’t have anything to do with her feelings for her boyfriend, Matt, back home in Seattle. This was so authentic to the way teen romances are at that age. So many books and television shows aimed at teens try to make these early relationships seem more like adult relationships, and they’re not. In this case, it plays out naturally, in a way a lot teens will be able to identify with.
The teen characters come across as credible. They’re self-absorbed, superficial, but contemplative — everything young adults are. But I found the adults more two-dimensional. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, adults often seem that way to teens, and we do see the world of Paradise Ranch through their young eyes. Still, I would have liked a little more, particularly from Lexi’s mom.
Speaking of Lexi’s mom, Lexi is way too quick to forgive her mother and I found that subplot difficult to believe. Most girls her age battle with their mothers in the best situations. Given her mother’s abandonment at very a pivotal time in her life, I thought this was wrapped up too cleanly. It’s in keeping with the overall tone of the book though, so in that sense it works.
The story is enjoyable and the characters authentic, but the writing style took a little getting used to. Once I got into it though, the story moved along to a satisfying conclusion and if there is a second book in the series, I’d definitely be interested in reading it.
I was provided a copy of this book by Young Adult Reads in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
R. Barri Flowers is an award winning criminologist and bestselling author of crime and thriller fiction, crime nonfiction and true crime, relationship novels, and young adult mysteries.
Young adult mystery fiction include OUT FOR BLOOD, TEEN GHOST AT DEAD LAKE, COUNT DRACULA’S TEENAGE DAUGHTER, GHOST GIRL IN SHADOW BAY and DANGER IN TIME.
New crime nonfiction books include THE SEX SLAVE MURDERS 2, MURDER OF A STAR QUARTERBACK, MURDER AT THE PENCIL FACTORY, DEAD AT THE SADDLEWORTH MOOR, MASTERS OF TRUE CRIME, PROSTITUTION IN THE DIGITAL AGE, STREETS KIDS, and COLLEGE CRIME.
The author is a member of the American Crime Writers League, International Thriller Writers, Kiss of Death, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.