Review by Frank Plowright
Kim Dwinell supplies a great looking world of infinite potential, as Surfside Girls opens at the beach on the first day of the school vacation. It’s bright, it’s hot and it’s decorative, and it induces a real yearning to be there with Jade and Sam to enjoy those conditions. They’ve grown up together and the twelve year olds enjoy the life a beach offers.
Disruption, however, is heading their way with the proposed development of the area they’ve been using for years as their own private surfing beach, the Danger Point mentioned in the title. Checking on progress, Sam is drawn towards a light and undergoes a strange experience and learns she has a destiny as a protector without really understanding what that entails. It’s not only the supernatural that bears investigating, as there are suspicions about the land development deal also.
The core of the story is the friendship between Jade and Sam. Sam’s actually experiencing what no-one else can, but instead of distancing herself from her friend, Jade remains a supportive companion, her belief that Sam’s telling the truth never wavering. Sam has an intuitive personality, with Jade the more methodical of the pair, and an endearing touch to Surfside Girls is how Dwinell uses Jade’s notebook entries as subtle recaps.
There’s a modern day children’s book illustrator’s charm to Dwinell’s art. She keeps it simple and warm, and cheerfully expressive. It creates a world of bright adventure that avoids anything sinister. Even the villain of the piece is characterised as a perky rogue, slick rather than aggressive, and this all feeds into the cheerful serenity Dwinell perpetuates. That’s despite ghosts and other strange phenomena, and no small danger.
Among other values reinforced in Surfside Girls is to ensure you know what you have while it still exists. By the time everything wraps up there’s been a recognition of how many elements Dwinell slipped by as passing fancies that have a later relevance. This isn’t always as major plot points, but in small touches producing a more rounded picture. Anyone fondly remembering the tenacious and good-hearted Nancy Drew adventures from their youth can locate a spiritual successor for their own children in Surfside Girls.