Cover Image: Summer Sons

Summer Sons

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Member Reviews

When Andrew Blur's best friend Eddie allegedly dies by suicide, Andrew must return to their childhood home to discover the truth. This was a queer, gothic ghost story for fans of sex, drugs, and street racing. Immersive, sucking the reader deep into a world that doesn't get a lot of page time in books. The characters were alive on the pages, vivid and interesting. I began recommending this book to friends before I even finished it.
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Summer Sons was a gut punch in the absolute best way.

This book is utterly unputdownable, I picked it up around 3 am to read for a bit to go back to sleep and ended up being so enthralled that I read on until dawn. This was the October read that I have been searching for.

I truly am a sucker for a terrible protagonist and Summer Sons delivered with Andrew who is an absolute dick to pretty much every single person in the book. His single-minded search for the truth about his best friend's death was so achingly relatable, derailed only by his spiral into drinking, drugs, and drag racing to avoid dealing with both his own feelings and Eddie's ghost. Lee Mandelo doesn't necessarily let his protagonist get away with his behaviour though, he is called out on all fronts and has to take a step back to examine his behaviour and how he has hurt the people around him. He doesn't get a free pass at the end of the book, but an open door if he's willing to put in the work to deserve it.

The writing is gorgeously, painfully atmospheric and the lush, claustrophobic descriptions of the revenant that plagues Andrew is eerie, intimate, and had me holding my breath at certain passages. Watching Andrew try to navigate a situation where everyone around him has more information about aspects of his life that he has fought for over a decade to keep secret was brilliant. Both his affinity for seeing ghosts and his queerness is called out immediately by people he has just met. He is forced to be vulnerable with a whole cast of characters that he doesn't know if he can trust yet, and they all seem to know more about him than he does about them. He's forced to reckon with the persona that Eddie bestowed upon him, and the person he is without Eddie, who both saved him and cursed him, who Andrew's whole life revolved around. 

This isn't necessarily a book that I would be quick to recommend to everyone I know, but it definitely struck a nerve for me personally.

TWs: suicide, death, gore, grief, body horror, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, racism, homophobia (including slurs), murder, animal death, references to child abuse, emesis, kidnapping, drugging.
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I’m so bummed by this one. I really wanted to love it more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, the southern gothic vibes and the whole queer questioning and identity was great, but I really wasn’t interested in the fast cars and fast life aspect of this story.
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This reading experience I think was definitely a product of reading it at the wrong time. I picked it up at the first of October to get into the spooky vibes and it was fine. I was having a difficult time finding my bearings in this novel and feel emotionally invested. I felt like the first 40% of the novel was redundant and almost no plot/character progress happens which made for an incredibly slow read. To make matters worse I had to put down the book for 10 days because I was on vacation and had ZERO time to read. However, when I picked the book back up I was more invested and interested in the story. I very much enjoyed the casual queerness and Andrew and Sam's budding relationship. But unfortunately, the spooky gothic southern vibes--which is normally my jam--just didn't give what I wanted it to give.
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I really tried so hard to like this book. I think I struggled most with who the intended audience would be. The story revolves around male graduate students that get drunk, take drugs, start fights, and race cars all while having to get past the casual use of homophobic slurs. It was so incredibly juvenile I found myself rolling my eyes frequently throughout the first portion of the book. All the while there was supposed to be a ghost story about Andrew’s dead best friend going on. I felt like this book wasn’t sure what it wanted to be and came off completely obnoxious and unenjoyable for me at least. I genuinely couldn’t stand a single character and felt like the writing lacked depth. 

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC of this book!
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What an awesome read! This book not only provides for academia vibes but also explores grief and codependency. This book was so atmospheric and just a delight to read. Can't wait to see what Mandelo writes next!
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Andrew and Eddie were best friends.  When Eddie dies Andrew in his grief seeks to find answers into the death of his friend.  Between the ghosts and the legacy that Eddie leaves him can Andrew escape or will he be consumed as well? I spent much of this book confused because I couldn't tell if Andrew's grief clouded his judgement or if the mysterious happenings around him were parts of his grieving process.  I enjoyed this story so much it was a tragic tale with a real mystery and supernatural presence that kept me guessing from page 1.
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2.5 Stars

This book follows Andrew who moves to Nashville following the apparent suicide of his best friend, Eddie. Andrew inherits Eddie's fortune, house, car, and also his roommate. 
Months pass as Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie's death and uncovers much more than he bargained for. 
I enjoyed the LGBT+ aspect of the story and how Andrew learned about himself along the way. 
The setting was atmospheric and the car racing was a unique side story. 
However, the plot of this book did not move fast enough. It took about 60% before the book went in an interesting direction. The "phantom" aspect of this story was lost on me most of the time and I did not know what was happening. 

The ending was also lackluster. The "reveal" did not shock me.
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The nitty-gritty: Despite a couple of intriguing mysteries and an atmospheric setting, Summer Sons ended up being a disappointing read.

The description and early blurbs for Summer Sons promised a queer, spooky, Southern Gothic ghost story, and the creepy cover made it even more appealing to me. And while it’s unabashedly queer and creepy and atmospheric at times, unfortunately it just didn’t work for me. 

Andrew was supposed to join his best friend Eddie in Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University, but before he can make the move, Eddie is found dead of an apparent suicide. Andrew arrives at the house Eddie was living in—the house they were going to share—only to discover that a student named Riley is already living there. Heartbroken and overwhelmed by Eddie’s death, and the fact that Eddie left Andrew his seven million dollar inheritance, Andrew is convinced that Eddie would never take his own life, and that there must be another explanation.

With the help of Riley and his cousin Sam, Andrew begins to dig into Eddie’s last moments, hoping to learn the truth. But when an angry spirit who appears to be Eddie starts haunting him, his investigation takes a terrifying turn. 

Where to start. I’m afraid this is going to be a mostly negative review, which I know is unusual for me. The story has so much potential to be great, but it falls short in many ways. I loved the idea of a malevolent ghost, and the author really nails the feeling of danger every time Andrew is haunted by Eddie’s spirit. Despite their relationship when Eddie was alive, Eddie's ghost seems angry and even ends up physically hurting Andrew. There’s a feeling of claustrophobia during these scenes that really creeped me out. However, for a book pitched as a ghost story, there really isn’t that much page time with Eddie the spirit, and I would have loved more.

One of the ongoing mysteries involves a traumatic event that happened to Eddie and Andrew when they were kids. Mandelo refers to this event in brief, tantalizing spurts, but doesn’t reveal what actually happened to the boys until the end, and even then his explanation was rather vague and unsatisfying. The result of this event leaves both boys with the ability to sense and see ghosts, and I thought that was such an intriguing idea. But like many of the better elements in this story, it just wasn’t utilized enough.

I had hoped for more of the “dark academia” trope too, and sadly that element fell flat as well. Andrew is expected to take up Eddie’s unfinished research into local Southern folklore, and when he arrives he’s expected to show up to classes, do the work, and have regular sessions with Eddie’s faculty mentor, Dr. Troth. While there was an interesting mystery involving Eddie’s missing journal and research notes, Andrew is much more focused on finding these items—as well as Eddie’s missing cell phone—than actually going to class. He blows off his advisor meetings and classes, and really, who can blame him? He’s trying to figure out who murdered his best friend!

Unfortunately, the story has many elements that didn’t really interest me, and less of these and more of the ghost would have made it better in my opinion. What are these elements? Street racing, lots of drugs, lots of alcohol, lots of sexual tension (and I do mean LOTS), gender identity and sexual orientation issues and plenty of angst. Most of the characters are male, so the testosterone is off the charts. A couple of female characters round out the cast but they don’t do much: a token girlfriend, Andrew’s ex who’s pissed off at him about something (and is only in the story, as far as I can tell, to help Andrew figure out his sexuality), and the evil professor Dr. Troth. I didn’t understand why the street racing element was even needed. I feel like it was added to make the characters seem “bad,” along with all the drinking, drugs and sex.

All of these negatives would have been ok if the pacing and writing had been better, but here’s where the story really fell apart for me. Summer Sons is slow. And I mean it develops at a snail’s pace. The fact that it took me three weeks to finish also tells you something. I found I was forcing myself to read it, and I almost DNF’d it several times but in the end decided to push through. There are bursts of excitement and danger scattered throughout, but in between those moments are excruciatingly slow and repetitious sections that killed all those thrilling scenes.

And I’m sorry to say that Lee Mandelo’s writing did not work for me at all. The story is overwritten and flowery and frankly, confusing as hell. Many times I got hung up on sentences that didn’t make any sense and pulled me out of the story. Now I know I read an uncorrected proof, and it’s entirely possible some of these have been edited by now, but I doubt that’s the case. Here are a couple of cringe-worthy examples: 

Their delicate dance of implication and tradition remained alien to him, and it pulled the air out of the room.

and

The question flew into the wall of Andrew’s privacy like a bird into glass and dropped dead.

I haven’t even touched on the characters, and to be honest, I’m sort of ready to end this review. Let’s just say that I didn’t like any of them, even Andrew. I did appreciate what Mandelo was trying to do with gender and sexual identity, but it became the focus of the story, and that just wasn’t the story I wanted to read. Many readers seem to love Summer Sons, so I suppose I might be the odd man out, but ultimately this wasn’t the right book for me.

With thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.
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I found it at times hard to keep track of the storyline. This made it hard to genuinely enjoy the book. Lots going on and overall, it was good. I did it as an audiobook and this could be why?
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I had to DNF this book. It's disappointing because I've been looking forward to this book for months and was so thankful for being given an advanced ebook copy from Netgalley and the publisher of Summer Sons. As much as I tried, and I even bought the audio book to help me continue, I just could not get into this story. Because I could not finish it, I am giving it 2 ⭐.
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Eddie and Andrew are childhood friends that have an unbreakable bond. They do everything together up until Eddie leaves to start his graduate program. After 6 months Andrew is notified that Eddie has committed suicide and has left him a home with an unknown roommate and more questions than answers. He cannot accept Eddie's death as a suicide and begins to retrace his steps by spending time partying with his friends and looking into the research project he was working on. Andrew's life begins to unravel as a mysterious entity with slashed wrists starts to appear.

I really liked the concept and the setting of the story. It had some really creepy elements and the repressed feelings that Andrew had were also an interesting part of the story. The ending felt a little flat to me. I was hoping for a little more.
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This book is going on my "pandemic DNF- return to someday" list. It's definitely a me-not-you sort of DNF, as I just couldn't focus on the story despite the fact that it is quite well written and up my alley.
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I seem to be in the minority here but something about this didn't work for me.  I just could not get into the writing style.  This did not feel like horror to me, even though there were depictions of ghosts and other "horror" type things.  I just felt a little detached because of the writing style.
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Thank You So Much Tordotcom for this ebook! 😘

Andrew and Eddie are the best of friends! They are more like brothers!
Eddie left to go-to Vanderbilt.
Andrew was to join him in Nashville a few months later.
Now Andrew is dead from an apparent suicide!
Eddie wouldn't kill himself.... So Andrew sets out to find the truth.
He is determined to find out what happened. So he retraces his steps.

Summer Sons intrigued me from the very beginning.
Its spooky, dark and beyond errie! 
It’s a thrilling and fascinating read the whole way through.
This beautiful cover is one pro.... 
But Lee Mandelo does an outstanding job making his characters come straight to life!
I simply adored every aspect of it: the writing, the angst, the pace, the characters!
This is one book you should read!
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Well, I really enjoyed this one.

I just tell you that I was much  more into the drama and the relationship than I was into the horror/paranormal aspect of it.  Don't get me wrong, that was good - it's just that I really needed our main character to find himself and some semblance of happy.

The Gothic feel of the piece is well done and our boys are so, so dangerous in so many ways.

Well written and made me very, very anxious!
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This book has everything I love: dark academia, an unsolved murder with a paranormal mystery, complex characters you can’t help but love, and a creepy, atmospheric setting.

Summer Sons follows Andrew, who travels to Vanderbilt University to investigate the apparent suicide of his childhood best friend Eddie. Torn apart with grief, Andrew knows that Eddie couldn’t have done that, and continue’s Eddie’s PhD research on local folklore in order to figure out what happened. But with the revenant Eddie haunting him, will Andrew be able to solve the mystery before it consumes him?

I loved this book so much. It was the exact dark, weird, slowburn horror that I adore. Andrew was an equally compelling and frustrating main character, but I really felt with him as he processed the loss of his best friend and the unresolved feelings between the two. I also adored the paranormal elements of the book and thought it was really unique. I definitely need to look for more southern gothic books because this was so so good. 

Side note but I think this would be really good for fans of The Raven Cycle that are looking for similar dark paranormal vibes. This book reminded me a lot of the Dream Thieves and is the first time I’ve been able to find something similar to my favorite series.

Overall this was a perfect mixture of dark academia and southern gothic and I highly recommend picking it up this fall!

Thanks so much to Tordotcom and NetGalley for the digital review copy!
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Not sure what I can say that hasn't already been said: this book is sweaty, delicious, terrifying, unputdownable.
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The deeply descriptive prose and lush setting of this book draw you in until you can almost smell the burnt rubber of a street race and feel the oppressive heat of summer.
I did struggle with the characters a bit because while they’re very well-written they’re also mostly terrible people and I had a difficult time identifying with Andrew at all. I also felt like the writing at times was too heavy with metaphors and it detracted from what was actually going on in the story.
Overall I feel like this was an intriguing, slow burn, atmospheric gothic mystery that I would definitely recommend to anyone who is looking for a good ghost story.
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This books writing is unlike anything I've ever read. Mandelo has incredible story telling skills. As well as amazing plot development. I loved this book!
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