Cover Image: Summer Sons

Summer Sons

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed this! It wasn't too scary but it definitely put me in the spooky mood! I really enjoyed the pacing and the writing style. I hope Lee Mandelo writes new books in the future!
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A fantastic southern gothic horror love story that definitely took me by surprise. Lee Mandelo creates a fantastic atmosphere throughout. 

Action, horror, dark academia, queer love, crime and suspense all combine to create this fantastic novel.
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This dark novel is a slow burn leading of longing, grief, and misery, where the main character reveals more and more of his soul along the way, hoping he can use it to pay for answers. The atmosphere is deliciously unsettling and I got lost looking for answers that could very well have not been there.
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This was a ghost story with a little bit of gothic and dark academia vibes.
It tells the story of Andy and Eddie, best friends forever, until Eddie left Andy behind to start at a new collegue. Six month laters, Andy received a letter that Eddie died and left him a inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

Its a coming of age but for an adult public with a lot of slow burn to create a creepy vibe among side ghosts and a haunted mansion. I love the characters and how they found themselves exploring their sexuality and identity but also how they deal with homophobia. About the book itself, the plot is predictable but  I was so into the story that I found myself enjoying it. I´d love to read more about the author because i really like this one and definetly I'd reread it again.

TW: death and grief; mentions of suicide and self-harm; blood, gore, vomit, graphic injury, and graphic violence; drug use and inebriated driving; some homophobic slurs; brief reference to child abuse; and some graphic sexual content
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Andrew's best friend has died, but Andrew does not believe what everyone says, that Eddie killed himself. Eddie would never leave Andrew, not after everything they have been through together. So, Andrew comes home for the first time in years, since his family adopted Eddie and moved away from the scene of a horrific event that left Eddie and Andrew with certain ghastly gifts. Andrew is ready to find out what really happened; which means befriending the group that Eddie hung out with and finally enrolling in the same program as Eddie at college.

Wow, just wow! This was a gripping gothic novel, drenched in summer sweat. You could feel the Nashville heat seeping out of the pages. 

Andrew was a chaotic mess of loss, grief, pain, repressed sexuality, and reckless disregard for his own life. Right away he feels a pull to Sam Halse, a larger than life character that he immediately dislikes for all his similarities to Eddie. Sam and his group, including Sam's cousin Riley who was Eddie's roommate (and by default now Andrew's roommate), are street racers. Andrew rolls his way into their numbers, having loved racing with Eddie.

This is a book that exudes male youth and their inherent belief that they will live forever. All of them are loose with their lives, unwilling to slow down or stop. Andrew dives headlong into danger, into finding the truth about Eddie's death, almost welcoming the same fate. It is the carelessness of youth and a desire for destruction, for being able to control something in your life when everything else seems to be falling apart.

But this novel also embraces the gothic backdrop of the south. The long dead ghosts of a history soaked in blood. Andrew experienced something in his youth, with Eddie, that has left him with haunts clawing at his heels. The worst of it is Eddie's ghoul, which has almost lovingly attached itself to Andrew and seems to be both trying to reveal the truth and eat him alive. Their bond was so problematic, with Eddie controlling every aspect of Andrew's life, even in death.

This book also espouses the evil of old wealth. The actual rot that lives within these old bloodlines of the south. How Eddie was part of a long line and how he pushed Andrew into accepting something he knew nothing about. The book highlights the disparities between the rich and the poor, how easy it is for the wealthy to move within the world. 

It is a found family book, in which Andrew begrudgingly allows himself to be accepted into Riley and Sam's group. That he is seemingly happiest when surrounded by these fast drivers, while the rest of his life is so focused on his grief and his inability to move past Eddie and Eddie's realm of influence. His having met this group on his own, without Eddie, allows him to actually be himself, to make his own mark. It is also with Sam, a character very similar to Eddie, that Andrew starts to realize his relationship with Eddie was never as it really seemed and maybe he could find something new and real and actually loving with Sam.

Throughout the novel Andrew is learning to finally be himself, to literally crawl out of the shadow of Eddie. He is working to accept who he is and the life he missed out on, and the life he can now enjoy and pursue.

This book is very much an homage to The Raven Cycle series, by Maggie Stiefvater, but darker, with more cars and more sweltering heat. Highly, highly recommend!
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This was a very compelling book. It was sad I read it during a reading slump, so it took me forever to get through and thus lead to me not enjoying it as much. When I was able to get through more than a few pages, it was extremely engrossing and as a debut novel it was incredibly well done. 

I will be reading this again when I am ready for it!
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TITLE: Summer Sons
AUTHOR: Lee Mandelo
372 pages, TorDotCom Publishing, ISBN 9781250790286 (hardcover, also available in audiobook, e-book. Paperback due on August 16, 2022)

DESCRIPTION: (from inside front cover): Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble.

And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall.

MY RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Lee Mandelo’s Summer Sons is about as close to an ideal modern gay Southern Gothic novel as we’re likely to ever get. An intriguing set-up (the apparent suicide of a best friend uncovers secrets perhaps best left covered) allows Mandelo to explore not just the bonds between best friends but the way toxic masculinity fosters secrets and separation. All the men in this book have a tough time expressing what they’re really thinking and feeling; there’s a lot of deflection, denial, and just plain silence. There were several times I found myself shouting at the characters to “JUST TALK ALREADY.” It’s frustrating, but in an effective way, building tension for characters and reader alike.

It’s clear from the beginning that it’s not just Andrew’s long-unrequited love for Eddie that drives him to find out why Eddie so suddenly committed suicide. Exactly what else is driving Andrew, why even while in denial he always placed Eddie so much above every other relationship, is one of the slow-burn sub-plots of the novel. All is revealed eventually; the slow parceling-out of the details is paced perfectly for the reveal to hit with maximum “holy shit” effect. As Andrew struggles with accepting his own past, his love for Eddie, and the possibility that he might be falling in love again, his mental state swings from depressed to disturbed and back again. It’s a fantastic character study, a deep look into how depression and anxiety work, especially on someone as closeted as Andrew is.

The new circles Andrew finds himself thrust into are full of interesting characters with their own secrets and agendas that don’t overlap quite the way one might expect. There wasn’t a character introduced that didn’t pique my interest.

And Mandelo fills the book with mood: from the first scene to the denouement, the story fairly drips with claustrophobia. The three main locations (three very different houses) feel close and confining, but so do the outdoor scenes (especially a particular party scene), and even the racing scenes (these boys love their fast cars, and so do the ghosts) despite, or perhaps because of, how well Mandelo captures that sense of speeding down dark roads with the woods on either side barely visible on moonless nights.

There are plenty of twists and turns, and a healthy dollop of supernatural activity and dread, making this a great summer horror read.

I originally received an electronic Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. For assorted reasons, this review did not get posted at that time. With the paperback edition coming out in August 2022, I thought it was time to rectify that.
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Personally, I found this too triggering at some points. Someone else could definitely love this but it wasn’t for me. The pacing was a bit off at some points and I couldn’t get as enthralled with the story as I wanted to be.
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I absolutely freaking adored this book. I can’t help but keep thinking about it, even though I finished it a few months ago.
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Really loved this queer, paranormal novel with so many twists and turns! I loved how complex the characters were and how deeply they were developed. It helped the reader understand the character's actions throughout the story as it developed. The eerie descriptions in this book were top tier, and had my skin crawling in certain scenes! There are scenes in this novel that will stay with me forever, which is the sign of excellent writing. Really enjoyed this and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys LGBTQ+ fiction, sci-fi horror, and books that get weird!
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Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo is a well-written thriller that makes us wonder how well we know the people in our inner circle and how well we know ourselves. Lee uses his mastery of the English language to weave a compelling and thought-provoking tale. As good as Lee’s prose are, I found that the author struggles with the mystery element of the story. The story lacked the pacing and hard-hitting moments mystery stories have. The author seemed to have a difficult time balancing the internal struggle of the main character and the overarching plot unfolding around him. Pacing concerns aside, Summer Sons is worth reading for its complex characters, fantastic prose, and moments of provocative suspense.
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First off, I actually had to look up words this author used--color me impressed.   Second, I enjoyed the story and trying to figure out who was involved with Eddie's death and the family curse.    My only hesitation is the graphic nature of some scenes which could be a trigger for some people.   I liked the characters, especially Riley and Sam.
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Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo is a haunting a novel that explores grief.  I’d recommend it to fans of southern gothic as well as those new to the genre, and I think readers who like a good mystery would enjoy this too.

Summer Sons uses some of the traditional tropes including flawed characters, horror imagery, secrets, and ghost stories. There are plenty of spooky moments, and I found myself feeling pretty creeped out. The pacing is slow at first, but picks up as both the reader and Andrew delve deeper into what Eddie left behind and try and figure out the people he was spending his time with. 

The chemistry between these characters was enjoyable - I was happy to add this to my list of queer literature by queer authors.
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i absolutely adored this. Well written horror, with compelling characters and so atmospheric, the vibes were perfection.
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I really struggled with the pacing of this book, but I feel like a reread would allow me to enjoy it more. I am so glad to see more queer stories that are darker and where characters are allowed to be flawed and messy. This was a haunting story, though I feel that it lingered too slowly before a propulsive end. I am often drawn to the comparisons of queerness with hauntings, so a lot of the atmosphere of this really worked for me. I know this was heavily inspired by the Raven Cycle, and I can see those threads. I can see this appealing to adult readers who enjoyed that series. However, this left me wanting more of something but not able to articulate what that could be. I think it is worth a read, though it didn't grip me as steadfastly as I was hoping.
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Lee Mandelo's debut Summer Sons is a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost.

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble.

And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall.

Hungry ghosts, academic intrigue, drag racing, all mixed together into a perfect ghost story, a uniquely Southern gothic tale blended with queer elements that adds up to a haunting, addictive novel by debut author Lee Mandelo. 

In “Summer Sons”, Andrew and Eddie are best friends but Eddie leaves Andrew behind to start a graduate program in their old hometown of Nashville. Six months later, Eddie’s died of an apparent suicide but Andrew doesn’t believe it. As he searches for the truth, he discovers death, cars, and a backstabbing academic world, as well as truths about himself and Eddie that he’d failed to see. He must discover if his suspicions are correct or if Eddie’s blood soaked family history led him to his death or both. 

For a debut author, Lee Mandelo’s characters are addictive. The grittiness of Andrew’s experiences and his encounters with ghosts will keep readers turning the page long into the night. They are enthralling, not just Andrew but the secondary characters surrounding him, cousins Riley and Sam, his academic mentor West, and his advisor Troth. Each character adds to the intrigue and makes you keep diving into the story for more.

The pacing is perfect and the language lyrical. The plot drags you into the gothic elements, the ghosts, the legends and Eddie’s bloody family history. Each layer that is peeled back adds another and each page you read makes you read the next. It is absolutely impossible to put down and that’s a good thing. And while the ghosts might be hungry, they are also haunting, the loss, the grief of losing someone you love, after you discover the depths of emotion and caring. And yet, the story still manages to hold onto hope with an ending that makes you root for happiness. 

If you love compelling, haunting ghost stories, with gay characters, I highly recommend this novel. The language is especially beautiful and the characters are impossible to forget. The ghosts will invite you in but you may not want to leave, even through the darkest bits.

Rating: 5 out of 5 ghosts
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I needed this book in my life. I read this at the right time and wow, I know it's a book I will go back and read again. Summer Sons is truly everything I love in books. Moron MCs who are just absolutely vibing on their one braincell and their "found" family of friends who are chaos and they all make horrible decisions on the daily. It's great! Plus, there are two things I enjoy putting into books, sports and cars, and this said, you get a car, You get a car and YOU get a car! It was fun even though they were all driving supped up wind up cars. 

I appreciated the grime of this book. Our main character, Andrew, is a mess, more way than one. Things get messy in terms of physical dirt and also messy in terms of mental stability. It was a great discussion on grief. Not the same thing at all but I had just lost my dog, who was very important to me and that's what I mean by I read this at the right time. It meant something more. 

I really liked the discussion of queerness in this book. Maybe others will disagree with me on this, but as someone who grew up in a more conservative area, I get it. I remember doing things with my friends and not doing things with my friends, and lashing out or people making fun of us for being too close and how that changed our relationship. 

This takes the idea of the things we hold onto and the things we prize not being perfect. Andrew and Eddie's friendship was as much a part of the mystery as the death and fantasy elements were. Andrew's unwillingness to make effort toward things that were too hard to handle was extremely relatable and I think that's why the ending works so well. 

I could go on and on about this book. I probably would've had more sound thoughts if I had done this review right after I finished reading it instead of two months later. But that seems to be how life is lately. I really loved this book. The tone of it was great, the college setting is fun, as well as the grungier story choices/descriptions.  Something I'll be reading again and taking notes on. Thanks again for the advanced copy from NetGalley!
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This is an incredible southern gothic queer story. I will admit that it took me two attempts to really get into it but once I did, I devoured it. The writing is very atmospheric, I felt the crushing weight of the southern heat while I read. Andrew's grief for Eddie was palpable and I felt myself also grieving the loss of this boy. The writing can be a bit purpley at times to the point where I was sort of confused, but I was able to push through and still really enjoy the story.
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Didn't capture my attention and engagement. Interested in trying it again though and hopefully it will take.
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This book seduced me with its promise of spooky times and long stretches of repressed miserable queer longings and subsequently hooked me—line and sinker—with the clarity of its prose, the gorgeous character work, and the musings on vampiric love and inheritance and masculinity and all the bleak many-faceted enormities of grief. I felt, moreover, compelled by the delicious and increasingly fraught tensions crisscrossing the cast of characters. The slow-burn is real, and I lived for it. Above all, this book hugely impressed me with its deliberate indictment of the racism baked into academic structures, an aspect that is too-often conveniently omitted by writers dabbling in the "dark academia" sub-genre. Mandelo doesn't flinch away from pointing out how their (white) characters thoughtlessly perpetuate the problem, through horrifically powerful gullibility or just callous apathy. There's a particular thematic note in this book that still has my stomach roiling with angry acids: as a queer person of color, you really cannot rely on your white queer peers to understand the shape of your chafing and grappling against institutionalized racism, no matter how well-intentioned they are/claim to be. Being queer does not make our experiences navigating the wide world similar or even equal. I've had interactions with white queers to whom this concept remains utterly ungraspable, and this book validates that helpless frustration. West's story got into me in a way that very few things ever have. I mean, you KNOW a book has struck deep chords in you when the words burst out of you in a faintly coherent voice note sent to a dear friend because you are angry and you want to be angry with someone who will understand, in a marrow-deep way, the shape of your anger. That said, this is a debut, so it's inevitable that it winds up with a few flaws: I found the mystery predictable and the plot, which involves a lot of dangling threads and dead ends, plods along for the first half of the book and the pace soon lapses into a repetitive, episodic rhythm. In hindsight, this aimlessness is somewhat justified—Andrew, our protagonist, is devastatingly, explosively lost. Grief, formless and rampant, is pounding at him at every turn until he can hardly feel his own edges, and that protracted process of grieving is central to the novel. It takes some work to get used to, but it's worth it. If you're more keen on character-driven stories, like I am, rest assured that this will not put a permanent dent in your enjoyment of this book. Overall, SUMMER SONS is a lovely book and an impressive debut from an author I'm definitely keeping an eye on.
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