Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com
Eighteen and never been kissed. Basically, that's Melena's life in a nutshell. But hopefully this summer all that will change. Thus begins book one of the RUSSELL FAMILY SERIES by Kimberlee R. Mendoza.
Melena's friend, April, drags her to a week long Church camp to get away from her mom and sister for a short time. There, Melena spies Dylan and is instantly smitten. But Melena is shy, and the week goes by without a word between the two. April finally takes matters into her own hands and walks over to Dylan and his friend, Chad, the last day of camp. Chad invites the two girls to go on the evening nature hike with the two of them, and friendships begin.
Dylan and Melena live at least an hour apart and the relationship seems doomed before it ever has a chance to bloom. Melena's fourteen-year-old sister does everything she can to sabotage the budding romance. Always jealous of Melena, Cassi tries to steal Dylan and convince him that Melena has no feelings for him.
The book takes place over the course of the summer as Melena and Dylan try to overcome one misunderstanding after another. It finally takes a tragedy at the end of the story to bring all the characters together and working through all of the issues that have plagued them through the summer months.
Ms. Mendoza writes a sweet, simple, Christian love story. For those not used to a Christian bent to the romance, Ms. Mendoza is never preachy or abundant with the religious overtones. But they are evident and heartfelt. Melena tries to do right by God but the struggles with Dylan and her sister are real and ones that anyone with sibling rivalry can definitely relate to. The plot moves quickly and leaves the reader siding with Melena when conflicts arise with her sister, Cassi. Cassi is a spoiled troubled girl who, with the love and Christian kindness of her sister, may just overcome whatever pain is inside of her.