Like most storied New England families, the Hatfields have their share of secrets. During the summer of 1928, the family gathers at Shorecliff, their summer house on the picturesque Maine coast, for a long vacation. The older cousins are there against their will—they’d rather be home in the city—but thirteen-year-old Richard sees his Shorecliff vacation as an opportunity to get to know his mysterious older cousins, and, by extension, to learn more about adult life. Richard spends most of his time eavesdropping on his cousins and on the group of adult women collectively called “the aunts,” and when he’s not eavesdropping, he’s sharing the fruits of his labors (and stirring his family up). There’s a lot bubbling underneath the idyllic surface—sibling rivalries, forbidden attractions, long-hidden secrets—and when the truth comes to light, it will change the family forever.
DeYoung’s debut takes a while to get moving, mainly because the cast of characters is so sprawling that it takes some time to get used to everyone. Richard can be an irritating narrator, but it’s a purposeful kind of irritating, and it works because he’s a thirteen-year-old boy with a penchant for stirring people up. The plot meanders from event to event, with a few recurring themes and events, and clumsy foreshadowing keeps the reader guessing what dramatic event is going to close the Hatfield family’s summer. Shorecliff reads like a tabloid exposé of a wealthy family’s troubles, only with highbrow pretensions.