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Book Review

Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is first book in the "Christy Miller" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Fourteen-year-old Christy Miller leaves her family's farm in Wisconsin to spend the summer with her wealthy aunt and uncle in Newport Beach, Calif. During her first day on the beach, some surfers make fun of her for her bright green bathing suit, prompting Christy's Aunt Marti to give her a whole new look. As Christy meets new friends, her naïve eyes are opened to the involvement of other teens in sex, drugs and drinking — things she personally has not encountered. While under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Shawn, a surfer Christy meets on the beach, decides to go body surfing and crashes into the jetty, which is a row of rocks that sticks out into the ocean. Shawn dies the next day.

After meeting Alissa, Christy grows envious of her because of all the attention Alissa receives from guys. However, Christy soon realizes that Alissa's life is far from perfect. Alissa tells Christy that she tried to kill herself earlier that year. Although she is offered drugs and alcohol, Christy honors the promise she made to her parents to not do anything during the summer that she might regret.

Christy meets Todd Spencer, an easygoing surfer who loves talking about God. Todd and his friends challenge Christy in her faith, and she begins to question if there is more to being a Christian than simply going to church. Christy also wonders if she and Todd could ever be more than just friends. Todd takes Christy to Disneyland on her birthday. But when he gives her a wad of leftover cash to return to her aunt at the end of the night, Christy realizes that Aunt Marti had organized the entire date. After yelling at Todd and Aunt Marti for what happened, Christy feels like her whole life is falling apart. Suddenly, she knows what she needs to do, so Christy kneels beside her bed and asks God to come into her life. During her last night on the beach, Christy tells her friends about her decision to follow Christ, and they are excited for her.

The night before her birthday, Christy's parents call to tell her she needs to come home early. As her aunt and uncle are taking her to the airport, Uncle Bob spots Todd driving behind them. Todd gives Christy a bouquet of white carnations, her favorite flower, and gives her a quick kiss.

Christian Beliefs

Uncle Bob says he believes in God, but he doesn't go to church. Christy finds this strange since her family has always gone to church. At Shawn's funeral, Todd wishes that he had the week back so he could witness to Shawn and that the people gathered there would come to Christ. Aunt Marti believes that if she tries to be a good person, God will help her. Todd's friend Tracy later explains to Christy that being a good person is not good enough — she needs Christ's forgiveness. Christy doesn't understand how Todd knows he'll go to heaven when he dies. Todd makes an analogy that compares Jesus to a boat. The boat takes people to Hawaii just as Jesus is the only way to God. Christy also attends a Christian concert with her friends; afterward, the singer encourages her to accept Christ. By the end of the summer, Christy asks Jesus to come into her life.

Other Belief Systems

Christy wonders how Todd knew white carnations were her favorite flowers when she had never told him. Uncle Bob attributes it to kismet, which he claims is a higher source that coordinates a person's life.

Authority Roles

Christy feels as though her Aunt Marti is constantly telling her what to do, how to dress and how to act. After Christy's disastrous first day at the beach, she tells Aunt Marti that the California kids think she's a nerd. Aunt Marti asks Christy if she is a nerd. Later, Christy purposely does things to annoy her aunt as a way of getting back at her for controlling Christy's life. When her parents call the day before Christy's birthday, her dad gruffly tells her to come home and then hangs up. Christy's mom, however, stays on the line and shows more sensitivity as she tells her daughter she needs to come home. Christy is able to talk to Uncle Bob about her feelings more easily than to any other adult in her life.


Todd's friend Shawn lets out a string of curse words, which are not mentioned, when Christy tells him that his romantic interest, Alissa, left his party with another guy. After smoking marijuana, Shawn tries to go body surfing and crashes into the jetty. He dies in the hospital the next day. While drunk, Alissa's mother punches Alissa in the eye and threatens to kill her. Alissa also admits that she has tried to kill herself six months before coming to Newport Beach.


Alissa flirts with random guys at the beach and goes home with Erik after meeting him at Shawn's party. Several scenes with Shawn and Erik imply that Alissa has slept with both of them. While packing Alissa's things, Christy finds a case of birth control pills. Alissa is glad because she's been looking for them. Erik arrives at Alissa's house and wants her to have sex with him as a way of telling him goodbye.

Christy ponders her up-and-down relationship with Todd and wonders if Todd will ever kiss her. After her Disneyland date with Todd ends badly, Aunt Marti assumes Christy is upset because Todd and Christy have had sex, and Christy wasn't prepared for it. As Christy's aunt and uncle are driving her to the airport, Todd pulls up behind them. In the middle of the intersection, he gives Christy a bouquet of carnations and briefly kisses her.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs and alcohol: While his parents are out of town, 16-year-old Shawn throws a party where teens do drugs and drink alcohol. When Christy looks in the cooler for something to drink, she finds only beer. When she asks for a Coke, she is pointed upstairs. Shawn and others are sitting in a bedroom smoking marijuana. Shawn tells Christy that the "coke," the cocaine, did not arrive. Later, while having a heart-to-heart talk with Christy, Alissa admits that her mother is an alcoholic.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Robin Jones Gunn






Record Label



Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Book House Company


On Video

Year Published





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