Summerlings

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

I received an E-ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Let me just cut to the chase...I have no clue what this book was on about.  I can't even begin to try and give you a summary of the story, so I'm not going to.  That's how much I didn't understand this book.

The characters were way too young to understand half of the things that were going on and doing in this novel.  They essentially try to pull off a heist, which is something that no average 8-10 year old kid is going to know the consequences of, let alone how to pull it off.  Needless to say, I found Lisa Howorth's writing to be far-fetched.  

On top of that, nothing of this book seemed to be important.  None of the neighbors seemed important, except for Ivan's aunt Elena.  Nothing that anyone was doing in the novel seemed important, except for the unbelievable heist.

I found no enjoyment from this.  It was honestly a miracle I even finished the book.  It was rushed, and honestly looked like it had never touched an editor's desk.  Nothing made sense, and nothing was clear as to why it was important.

Rating: 2/5 stars
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Summer nostalgia coming in with pure sweetness in Lisa Howorths' coming of age story, "Summerlings." Set in 1959, nine year old John and his friends wake up one morning to find spiders...everywhere! The shananigans that ensue during that hot summer are pure imaginative gold. A rockin' block party, bug hiest, and more! Hosworth does a fantastic job of describing the feel of the Cold War era by sprinkling in the lasting effects of WWII on an average American neighborhood and what it means to grow up in a world fret with suspicion.
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⁠
𝗦𝘆𝗻𝗼𝗽𝘀𝗶𝘀:⁠ ⁠
It's the summer of 1959 in Washington DC & the melting pot that is Connors Lane is about to be brought together by a spider infestation and a Family Fiesta thrown by a couple of 8-year-old boys. What could possibly go wrong?⁠
⁠
𝗠𝘆 𝗜𝗻𝗰𝗼𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀:⁠
I was so excited to get my hands on Summerlings and I'm happy to say that I loved it! The author did such a great job capturing the magic that is a childhood summer.⁠
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I also really appreciated that Connors Lane was full of such a complex cast of characters. The cast combined with the children's take on complex issues served as a great reminder that maybe we aren't so different after all. Maybe just maybe we can all learn to get along. 

Overall, this is a read that I highly recommend to anyone who feels a little nostalgic for those summers of their childhood. Trigger warning: some domestic violence
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This was a cute story and a quick one to read. Very cute for a summer read. It's about one neighbourhood in Washington during a sweltering summer in 1959 and is told by our 10 year old John his little gang of neighbourhood friends. We hear John's perspective of his post-war neighbourhood made up of many that have fled Europe and Mexico, etc. We are given a detailed breakdown of each of the neighbours including the Dutch family and a Jewish family - Max being one of his best friends -and how Max is not allowed to play with the Dutch boys their age because his being Jewish, there was their beloved neighbour Elena that was helping refugees, neighbours that could have been Nazi sympathizers, etc. Each of these people were described through the eyes of John. Running throughout is the Cold War sentimentality and one giant spider invasion. 

Overall, a cute coming of age story told through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy. 

Penny / Literary Hoarders
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The Summerlings is a fantastic coming of age story. Without given no too much of the plot away it is the story of a young boy, John in Cold War Washington DC and his misadventures with his friends Max and Ivan. All three boys come from families that are rife with secrets, stories and adventures of their lives Past and present. Which only enhance and add to an already raucous and rich coming of age plot well written by Lisa Howarth. It is when the boys under the tutelage of Ivan’s mysterious Aunt Elena; throw a backyard party at John’s grandparents home that the story takes an interesting turn. The adults fueled by the run spiked punch and Elena roaring off on a motorcycle with a mysterious stranger all come together to a moment that will change young John’s life forever. The Summerlings is a novel that is a must read on your 2019 shelf.
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'We existed in a smaller world of our own daunting challenges, peopled with gods and monsters. Sometimes they were the same.'

It is the summer of 1959 and there is a plague of spiders on the streets of Washington DC, an exciting occurrence for John and his friends. Living with his grandparents he is part of a family of oddball Washington natives on his mother’s side, of course he knows nothing of his father’s family since his parents divorced when he was five. His grandfather John, but called Brickie, swears his daddy is allergic to work, lazy. It is true his father was spoiled, but his mother needed so much attention. Both good looking and wild, their marriage ended and John’s mother contracted tuberculosis, so they say, and for two years now that’s where she is still at the sanatorium, St. Elizabeth’s. Children of divorce an anomaly in the 1950’s could make for a lonely life, his sister Liz is away at camp, but John has his buddies Ivan, Max and girl pal Beatriz.

This was a period of time after World War II when your neighbors all knew each other and anyone foreign was suspect. The Russians were still enemies to the American way of thinking and any strange occurrence could well be a part of their schemes. Even grandpa Brickie thinks the Russians are behind the spiders! Spending their lazy days of summer concocting a plan to catch poisonous bugs to defend themselves against their bully, nemesis Slutcheon -leads the children into a far bigger story, one that may make them criminals.

Then there is the beautiful Elena, Ivan’s aunt, whose presence does strange things to John. Enlisting the beauty to help them hatch the “Beaver Plan”, a neighborhood party, something to help everyone be nicer to each other is perfect, when she has the time and isn’t busy going out with different men. “Air-conditioning and privacy were luxuries few people had in those days”, everyone knows Elena’s business, there are no secrets in these sort of neighborhoods, not for a party girl who hangs out with ‘Commies’ and comes home far too late in the night. There could be Russian spies everywhere, and even a school mate with a gorgeous aunt could be one. She spends too much time helping refugees, and then there is the mysterious Cuban on the motorbike.

The children play war with cherry bombs, drive the adults crazy in each other’s yards, bicycle through the streets, swim in a play pool until it gets dirty wondering if it could give them polio, that dreaded disease instilling fear in the hearts of children of the 50’s and flirt on the edge of adulthood. The boys don’t fully understand the fights between Elena and Josef, why her ‘refugee friends’ embarrass him so nor Ivan’s rage at his father. Nor does John comprehend why his mother is suing his own father. The adults world is one of confusion, conflicting information like the war, and spies… everyone spies, everyone! Heck, on their own street they all spy on each other and suspect them! Why is it wrong for one country but not another, and why do all the adults always say ‘you’ll understand when you’re older’ about all the complicated questions? And will Dimma (his grandmother) really give him an enema? A dreaded enema? Just what role is a vinegaroon going to have in this story? In fact, what IS a vinegaroon anyway?

A heist the children plan, special tropical punch, a party where everyone drops their guard and a tragic turn of events come morning changes everything causing an abrupt end to the summer and their innocence. The world keeps turning, people move on but memories remain. A story of innocence before the dawning of adulthood. By far the cutest book cover!

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Doubleday Books
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I have to admit it was the cover image of this book that drew me in – a goofy looking kid with a spider in his face? Count me in. Howorth’s book is a coming of age story about John, an eight year old boy and his best buddies growing up in a Washington D.C. suburb in 1959. With the shadow of World War II still looming large over the neighborhood and the Cold War at it’s height, the boys believe an invasion of highly unusual spiders is likely a Soviet plot. By turns funny, touching and tragic, this is a story about growing in a “simpler time” that wasn’t really simple at all
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