The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, by Danette Haworth (Bloomsbury--Walker Books, 2010, middle grade)
The Meriwether, a once grand hotel in Hope Springs, Florida, hides secrets--hidden rooms and staircases, as well entire floors kept from the view of the guests who still come to enjoy its faded grandeur and partake of its famous blueberry pancakes. No-one knows those ordinary secrets better than Allie Jo Jackson, the hotel-keepers daughter; after all, she's lived in the Meriwether her whole life. This summer she's sharing it with two other kids--a boy and a girl her own age who are ordinary friends that she hadn't expected.
But then Allie meets Tara...beautiful, mysterious, and with a strange fondness for swimming at night...Tara has a secret that is far beyond the ordinary. And she is in danger...someone is looking for her, to make her secret into his own fortune.
It's a lovely story of the fantastic and magical intersecting with the real world. The other-worldly setting of the old hotel provides a perfect setting for this type of story--it is almost unreal itself, the sort of place where anything could happen. The friendships that develop among the kids are as central to the plot as the magical side of things, making this a beautifully three-dimensional story. I imagine it will be enjoyed by a whole range of audiences-- fantasy loving kids, mystery loving kids, and kids who want stories about finding friends. And, of course, those of us who love books featuring mysterious, enormous, old buildings full of secrets....
Haworth does a lovely job with her story--she balances description, character-building, and clues to the mystery in a seamless way that makes for a great read.
Here's another review at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea-Cozy, in which the author shares background on the creation of her grand hotel.