Book Review: The Secret Sunshine Project

Benjamin Dean

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

published: 31st March 2022
spoilers? no


Bea’s family are happy. Like, really happy. Like, kind of gross but also cute happy. So when they visit London Pride together and have the ultimate day out, Bea doesn’t think her family could possibly get any happier. But a year later, a grey cloud is following Bea’s family around. Dad has passed away, and without him around they have no choice but to pack their bags and move to the countryside to live with Gran.

With Bea’s big sister, Riley, taking the news hard, Bea will do anything to cheer her up. So with the help of new friends, The Secret Sunshine Project is formed – Bea’s plan to bring Pride to the countryside and a smile back to Riley’s face. There’s just one teeny tiny problem – the village mayor. A grumpy old woman who’s on a mission to rain on Bea’s parade . . .

Galley provided by publisher

The Secret Sunshine Project is a very sweet middle grade book, following Bea and Riley, two sisters obliged to spend their summer holiday in the small village where their grandma lives. This means they’ll miss London Pride, the first such celebration since their dad died the year before, so Bea, wanting to cheer Riley up, tries to organise a Pride of their own in the village.

As I said at the start, it’s a very sweet book. The focus of it is on family and remembrance and friendship, really. That’s much in the same vein of Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow (perhaps less the remembrance), and it worked just as well here. All in all, these are very kind books, I find. Even the characters you’re not meant to like are treated kindly, and become more likeable for it.

Speaking of characters, as with Dean’s first book, those here are characters you’ll immediately like and sympathise with (unless they’re the aforementioned ones you’re not supposed to). You’ll fall for Bea and Riley from the moment they first step onto the page, and all of their friends besides. When the book is done, you won’t want to leave it because it means leaving them too. Which, I think, is the sign of a very good book.

But if there’s anything less positive I have to say about this one, it’s that it didn’t really give me the emotional hit that Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow did. It was sweet and it was fun, but I just didn’t get that on top of it all. And I’m not sure why.

However, despite that, it’s a book I would recommend. And definitely, Benjamin Dean is an author I’ll be coming back to.

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