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Summer Sons

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Member Reviews

Summer Sons
by Lee Mandelo
Macmillan-Tor/Forge

This is a book that has curses, friendships, secrets, drugs, sex, murder, and hope. This book will keep you turning pages, asking questions, looking out your window, and under your bed. This book will make you cherish your friends, ask more questions, and love harder.

Two best friends, Andrew and Eddie, friends since childhood but one is keeping a secret. Separate for six short months but soon to be back with each other. Then Andrew is told Eddie killed himself. Andrew doesn't believe it. He comes to find out what happened. But something is waiting for him.

Paranormal, evil in the shape of humans and inhuman form is something Andrew has to confront to find answers. He has to walk in Eddie's steps to find out who or what Eddie encountered. What he doesn't know is they are already waiting for Andrew.
Good and creepy.
I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for letting me read this book.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Tordotcom for the ARC of this book!

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo is a southern gothic/dark academia/hot summer night fever dream that explores relationships and how they can affect every single part of our lives without us even realizing it. 

Andrew and Eddie did everything together. Best friends from childhood, they'd been through the most pivotal, and most horrific, parts of their lives together. When Eddie dies while he's away at school, Andrew is devastated. When he gets to Nashville to take care of Eddie's affairs, Andrew realizes he left behind more than just a vast estate. Andrew is haunted by a shade of Eddie, a presence that pushes him to figure things out because there's no way he killed himself. In Andrew's journey to find the truth, he's inundated with grief and visions of death and a life Eddie left behind - cars and drugs and strangers. When Andrew lets Eddie's phantom past his crumbling control, he realizes there's more at stake than he realized.

Summer Sons is an atmospheric read with the heat of Nashville creeping under your skin when you read about it. Lee Mandelo is an incredibly descriptive author, so we get amazing detail that adds so much emotion somehow, just in the way a bead of sweat can glance off a collar bone. It's dark and angsty in the best way, and the emotional journey Andrew has to take of losing someone closer than a brother - a soul mate even - realizing that maybe what they had wasn't what he thought, realizing there's more to life than living for one person. It's very emotional and very well done. 

The queer aspect is there, yes. But the thing that really struck me at the core was the absolute blind queer pining. The feeling of being lost because there's a thing you haven't found yet, haven't examined and looked too closely at. Denial and assurance and confusion.  It's all woven so expertly into the heart of the story, that it's completely necessary and rang with such a peal of truth. I love the relationships in this book to that effect, and I loved the casual queer rep in this book. 

The story overall is an all-over read - meaning it's heart-pounding and thought-provoking and soul-crushing all at the same time. Mandelo perfectly pulls together a group of characters that I immediately cared about, and put them in situations that spiked my anxiety for them. It's a really twisty tale of darkness and curses that weaves in the ugly side of academia, the injustices faced in the system by BIPOC in mostly white programs, and the bloody lengths some people will go to in the name of toxic love. 

A fantastic adult thriller for anyone looking to be emotional and spooked at the same time!
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The good: 
Incredibly atmospheric - I could smell, taste, hear and feel this book.  Complex characters and a solid ending.

The bad: 
It was very slow-paced, and I almost wanted to quit it halfway through.  A lot of repetition of the same emotions: the uncertainty, the circular hunt for answers, etc.
A solid story that could use a more heavy-handed editor.
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This book is not in genres that I typically read but when I read the description - a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost, I was hooked and had to read it. I was not disappointed. Summer Sons is dark, magical, and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Among the spooky, southern ghosts stories and hot boys, it's also surprisingly funny during parts. Well done on the part of Lee Mandelo..
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This was EVERYTHING I had hoped it would be and more!  The descriptions of the horror aspects are viscerally chilling.  The twists and turns, never knowing who was the real culprit, and the dawning horror of realizing just what was going on at the end -- chef's kiss.  I loved the heartbreaking but bright way Andrew realized his sexuality and came to terms with it.  There's also splashes of positive representation of marginalized groups, all deliberate without being agonized over.  And body positivity!  For men!  There are several times in the story where the author mentions the little fat rolls on different men's stomachs and I LOVE IT.  It's such a subtle little detail, written as a throw-away line almost.... but it's there and it's purposeful.  I seriously cannot recommend this book enough -- unless you don't like horror or gore.  If you don't like either of those, then stay far away from this book!  But if you can handle that kind of stuff, this is an absolute winner.  I'm buying a copy for my home bookshelf.
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Intense, beautiful, brooding. An inventive, surprising story and upends popular tropes and tells a story that is a breathless, astounding work.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the arc!

4.5, rounded up.

So, if you know me, you know I don’t do spooky shit. At all. But something about this little blurb made me give Summer Sons a chance, and I am so glad I did. I finished it a day and a half ago and I’ve been thinking about it nearly nonstop since.

Andrew is mourning his best friend, Eddie, who has passed from an apparent suicide. Reeling with the abrupt loss, Andrew packs up and moves almost literally into the life Eddie was living in Nashville, desperate to figure out why his friend would leave him. Between trying to hunt down leads and clues, dealing with ghosts and haunts, and figure out what the hell Eddie was doing with his life, Andrew is also trying to maintain his own life as a student at Vanderbilt, where Eddie was also enrolled. His new roommate Riley and Riley’s cousin, Sam, bring along a whole other slough of issue for Andrew to sort through and things get dark, really quickly. 

Summer Sons is, pardon the bad pun, a haunting story that I literally felt in my gut as I was reading it. I often found myself holding my breath for passages at a time because it got INTENSE. You can literally feel the summer in Nashville and all the dark, wild shit Andrew gets into along your skin as the story progresses.

I loved the way the story blended in all this dark, macabre academia and then just a crew of young people out racing cars and and making questionable choices with drugs and alcohol together. Like, it was just a bunch of regular young adults being young adults while also dealing with ghosts and some magic and terrible, awful things and I bought every second of it. 

The characters are COMPLETELY flawed and real and often selfish assholes (hello, Eddie) and yet I still found myself charmed by a majority of them as often and I was annoyed by them. It was long, but I didn’t feel it was too long that my interest waved. Rather, I kept devouring the story, wanting to know what could possibly come next. Also, when I was correct about a hunch I had regarding a plot point I shouted, “I fuckin’ knew it!” out loud at two am. Vindicated.

I really enjoyed this story and I know that it has taken up a bit of a permanent residence  in my brain for the foreseeable future. 

Also, Sam Halse must be protected at every single cost. If you disagree, don’t talk to me ever.
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Summer Sons sucks you in and doesn't let up untill the last page. Lee Mandelo has created a well crafted, fast paced story filled with ghosts, street racing, and what it means to be left behind after the death of a loved one. Andrew's emotion lifts off the page as he's faced with the death of his best friend.
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SUMMER SONS is an addictive, thrill seeking ride of a novel. It slow builds the story with intention, pulling you further into the suffocating heat of the gothic south and then begins to send chills down your arms as the supernatural/horror elements begin to reveal themselves. The pace quickly picks up once more characters and plot threads are introduced in the story. There’s a certain point in Sons where the story sinks its teeth into you, and no matter what may try to grab your attention, the book won’t let you put it down. I sprinted to the ending. There was a sense of urgency Lee had built and I needed to know what was happening; the answers to my questions. While the supernatural mystery is the central pillar of the novel, to me, the real story being told here is one about the insurmountable grief that comes with loss, identity and repression, and the catharsis from being able to let go, from being able to move on.

Which is why even though I found the mystery's conclusion to be a bit underwhelming, I can look past it due to everything else Lee did being done so well. An excellent debut. I'm hoping there's another story to tell in this world, I would be first in line to read it if so.
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Where do I even start with this book? I finished it two days ago, and it is still thriving in my head, despite have already started my next read. I don’t know what it says about me that I allow myself feel the imagined emotions of characters in novels more strongly than emotions as a result of things that actually happen in my life. Probably that I need some kind of therapy. But if that describes you too, be prepared. I’m not going to get into specifics, but there might be spoilers here for the overall story beats.

The story seems simple enough at the outset. Grieving over the death of his best friend Eddie by apparent suicide just days before they were supposed to me up again for graduate school, Andrew decides to continue on with those plans in the hopes of finding out what really happened to his friend. He does not believe Eddie was the type to commit suicide. The friends shared a complicated history, and a supernatural power that gives them an ability to sense and manipulate ghosts, called haunts, and in general mess around with death and dead things. This complicates Andrew’s grieving, because the haunt of Eddie is still hanging around, and Andrew feels like it’s trying to tell him something. Along the way, Andrew meets up with the people Eddie knew in and outside the university, and eventually unravels the mystery of what happened to his friend.

It was a little rough at the beginning, I’ll admit. Andrew’s intense grief made him unlikable. He chooses all the worst ways to grieve, driving Eddie’s car, wearing Eddie’s clothes, sleeping in Eddie’s bed. Once he starts developing relationships with the people around him though, the novel really gets into what I believe it is really about, the journey of self-discovery Andrew has to go through. His relationship with Eddie was amazing, as close as two people could be, but he’d always believed it to be platonic, and he remembers the angry, violent ways Eddie responded to any suggestion of homosexuality between them. It really trips Andrew up when everyone he meets in Nashville assumes that he and Eddie were a couple, and he can’t understand why Eddie didn’t seem to care. Eventually, Andrew learns from various sources what Eddie’s real feelings for him were, and that he had done his own growing as a person while he was in Nashville. In my mind, the saddest takeaway from this novel is my belief that, had the two been able to reunite the way they had planned, there would probably have been a much healthier openness about how they felt towards each other. That they never got that chance is tragic. The other side of this story is Andrew’s growth into an individual. After having followed Eddie’s lead in all things since childhood, Andrew initially flounders at having to decide anything for himself. While Eddie’s shadow still looms large in the minds of everyone he meets in Nashville, Andrew is able to learn things about himself that move him towards both being a complete person on his own, and into a healthy grieving for his lost friend.

I really enjoyed this novel. I found the writing evocative and enjoyed the supernatural elements thoroughly. I love a good magic system, and there was a nice cohesion to what Andrew was doing, despite his stumbling along blindly into things he didn’t understand. I could probably have done with one or two less muscle car scenes, but that’s probably a matter of personal taste. This book’s release is perfectly timed for the biggest horror season of the year, and I plan to recommend it extensively.
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I am OBSESSED with this book, and will be taking every available opportunity between now and release day to try and convince everyone that it should on your list. Summer Sons is deliciously, gorgeously gothic. It’s queer. It’s heartbreaking and healing at the same time. It’s about love and grief and all the other emotions that tangle us up as human beings. But it's also well aware of the literary form in which it exists, incorporating and interrogating well known elements of the Southern Gothic, from racism to classism. With a keen eye to how the elitist strictures of Academia can serve to perpetuate both.

Andrew and Eddie have always been together, bound by a shared secret and a dark gift. Until Eddie gets accepted early to their graduate program, leaving Andrew to trail six months behind. When Eddie kills himself shortly before Andrew is supposed to join him, he carves a hole in Andrew’s life, dragging a trail of secrets in his wake. The circumstances of his death are murky, and the deeper Andrew digs the more he realizes how little he knew about Eddie’s new life without him. All around are strangers, and none stranger than the haunt that stalks his shadow, haunting Andrew with the possibility that Eddie’s death was not what it seemed. 

As much a critique of the Southern Gothic as it is a shining star of the genre, Summer Sons delivers all the horror, pathos, murder, and mystery you could possibly want in a book.
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Wow. W.O.W. 

Lee Mandelo blew me away with this novel.. I've recently gotten into the Horror genre but tend to stray away from King's novels, and this book scratched that niche itch so well. Not only does it envelop the Horror genre, it also includes Mystery, LGBT, Coming of Age, and has some fantastical elements as well! 

There was nothing to dislike about this novel. Andrew kind of reminds me a little bit of a mixture between Ronan Lynch (The Raven Cycle) and Richard Papen (The Secret History), who just so happen to be my favorite narrators in the entire literary world. 

I am so excited to see where Mandelo goes after Summer Sons blows the NYT Best Seller's List out of the water in September. I'm also excited to see that the entire Horror genre is shifting away from the overly-long, dramatic, King style horror, and is now being written to serve a newer, younger audience.
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Summer Sons defies genre and is a beautiful, sweltering, messy ride (and I mean messy in the best, grief-ridden sense). 

The prose is masterfully done. There were so many times when reading that I had to physically put the book down while I reread a sentence a few times because it was just THAT good. The macabre gore always had an almost romantic tinge to it, which I couldn’t get enough of.

The characters were, for me, the best part of the novel. They were well constructed and most, if not all of them, had depth. Especially Halse, who I found at first to be one-dimensional, and then completely surprised me.

The pacing can be slow, especially in the beginning, but it reminded me of how grief physically feels. Everything around you slows way down, leaves you behind. Summer Sons does a fantastic job of showing grief in a very real, gritty way. Reading about Andrew dealing with the loss of his friends was at times hard to handle, and frankly, it should be. Absolutely beautifully done.
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"Summer Sons is a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost." I mean I couldn't describe it better than the blurb if I tried. 

This book was a ride beginning to end, car pun intended. The whole premise intrigued me so much that I put down the other books I was reading and focused in on this one. I did find the first half a bit slow to get into the main drama but I kind of enjoyed just seeing through Andrew's eyes as he tries to walk in Eddie's shoes to see what might have caused his death. I liked going through the suspicions of each character with him. The complex relationships between so many of the characters really made this book feel different from others. On one hand you have a man trying to reconnect to his dead best friend, while simultaneously trying to keep himself grounded in the land of the living. I definitely think the cousins were the best and I love them too much. For me, this was a 4/5. 

If you like supernatural horror with pining men, a pack who drink and do drugs way too much, and a ton of LGBTQ+ rep, then this one is for you. 

I received a digital copy of this book free from NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.
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*Fleabag looking into camera* This is a ghost story. :) 

It’s good, it’s sad, it’s haunted. Perfect for the fall, I think.
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Not for everyone - but I’m not sure it’s supposed to be. It could be sold in multiple different genres and has so many complex and unlikable characters. However, I had a blast. It was genuinely intriguing, haunting, and all around a pretty good read.
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This book was such a ride, and so messy and dark without ever falling over the edge into something you couldn't relate to or claim as your own. I've semi-jokingly been recommending this to people as "a book if you love Ronan Lynch from The Raven Cycle, but want it adult, more messed up, and full of ghosts", and, honestly, I still stand by that.

These characters are messy and inelegant and flawed and, in the case of our main character and probably his best friend as well, so very repressed. The softness of queer stories can be nice, the delicate, beautiful look of them, the poetic and well edited move towards understanding self- but that's not the only kind of queer story or queer coming out arc.
I'm a big fan of any story that involves finding your way out of smothering, embryonic sack of repression in the South, the disconnect of self, the way things break even as they finally come into focus. And this book? It hits all those notes for me.

This book is also so very creepy- but personally creepy. This isn't just a ghost story, it is so intrinsically tied into what Andrew is going through, and his connection to Eddie. I love the way Mandelo had the paranormal elements and the tension all impossible to unravel from Andrew's trauma and queerness. It works so well, and feels so real, because it's matched hit by hit.

And all of this would be enough on it's own, but it certainly helps that I love the whole cast of characters. They aren't created equally, but they all bring something different, and, importantly, organic to the mix. I love the diversity in this book, and the way that it's both embraced as something that exists there and something other people have their own comfortability with, and still snagged upon at certain moments like a sensitive area, for someone who is more or less blindsided and not entirely sure how to interact with or how he should feel about these characters and their own identities.
Seeing them through Andrew's lens is really interesting, and I found myself really getting connected with them. Some right away- like Riley- some slower. And some sort of snuck in- Ethan is hands down my favorite character, and I didn't think for a second he was going to have enough character/personality/depth for that to happen.

Not everything worked perfectly for me. I was excited about the folklore and murder ballads (two things I am very, <i>very</i> into) and they didn't quite pan out or expand into the story the way I was hoping. They're a clear thread, but I set myself up to expect more there. I also feel like the ending was just a bit forced, an over the top moment stacked on an over the top moment, to lose some of the feeling that was already building.

But over all I loved reading this book!
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Solid plot, beautiful prose, a sexy mash-up of genres––this book was a surprisingly enjoyable read. BUT… this is one of those books that would be better as a TV show. It NEEDS to be a show. It’s got everything––creepy, Southern Gothic horror vibes; Fast and the Furious style race cars; boys who have the absolute hots for each other but can’t admit it; dark academia and creepy professors. It was an solid read, but there were a few things that I didn’t like that brought my review from a 5 to a 4-star: 

1. The lead character, Andrew, is rather annoying. Okay, he’s grieving, I get it. But damn––give us a likeable moment, at least once? I can only handle so much angst and depression. 
2. There was a definite lull in the middle where not much happens, just a lot of skulking about, drinking (drinking, drinking… and did I mention drinking?), and being a dick to everyone. 

Hence, my conclusion that this would make for an awesome show––condense it a bit, pick a really likeable actor to play Andrew and voila! Problem solved. But still, this was a great read and I would definitely recommend it.
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I’m surprised. This was a book that took awhile for me to get into, but I liked it fine by the end (if you overlook all the bad rep when it comes to race). My only advice is if the beginning feels confusing or a bit slow at first, just stick with it or maybe try it in audio instead. I liked the characters, but the story can definitely be a hit or miss for folks.

I was already intrigued by the blurb but it’s also confusing, right? It makes it seem like the main character is grieving the death of an ex-lover, and mentions no romance to speak of. And of course, a ghost. But. Early reviews mentioned a romance but we don’t know with who. It definitely had me thinking the love interest was going to be his dead ex-lover who is now a ghost.

And. WELL. If you’re like me and tried to make assumptions based on the blurb, I think you’d be in for a surprise. 

It turns out Andrew, the main character, is not grieving an ex-lover per se, but a best friend. Who he had a very toxic co-dependent relationship with (not that he thinks so). The friend is also his adopted brother, Eddie. Which makes the whole backstory between them kind of weird, but I guess the key here is that they’re not related by blood from birth.

Content notes include mentions throughout the book of suicide, reliving that death in graphic detail throughout the book, the MC investigating the death throughout the book, depression, homomisia, internalized homomisia, drug use, violence, drinking and driving, driving while on drugs, minor character with cancer, demonic/ghostly possession, mentions of parents dying from a vehicular incident, systemic racism at college, and mentions of child abuse. 

This book is set in Nashville, Tennesse at Vanderbilt. Andrew has enrolled as a graduate student, but really just intends to investigate Eddie’s suicide who he suspects might have been murdered instead. He has no experience with solving cases, so he’s kind of lost about where to start. He stays at the house Eddie bought, and the roommate he’s inherited with the house - Riley.

Riley rides with his cousin Sam, and all Sam’s friends in their “pack”. They have fast cars and loved to race on the open road at dangerously high speeds and are usually drunk or high in some capacity. It’s a dangerous group of people but Andrew is determined to figure out why Eddie would hang out with them and if any of them got him killed. 

SPOILERS ABOUT THE LOVE INTEREST

So, this is minor in the grand scheme of things, but I HAVE A BONE TO PICK. I don’t know why everyone is being so vague and secretive about who the love interest is. Why would you want to even read a book not knowing who that is? Maybe it’s the romance reader in me, but the first thing I did was flip to the end of the book to see out who it is because I don’t play guessing games. 

It’s Samuel “Sam” Halse. I really love him?? He’s the king of his little world and he’s got a real edge of danger to him that makes him attractive. There are a lot of little moments between Andrew and Sam along the way that feels like a slow burn. I love all scenes Andrew has with Sam, where the tension is off the charts, even if they only were exchanging text messages. My only complaint with the ship is that we don’t see more of Sam earlier in the book. Which is why I think the start of the book was super boring. Just give me Sam and fast cars and parties. 

This is a book I would say is more paranormal mystery with a side of romance (if you look for it) than anything else. It ends on a hopeful note for Andrew and Sam, but doesn’t necessarily give readers a definitive HFN or HEA. The mystery throughout the book is interesting, but has the limitations of an amateur sleuth who doesn’t have police resources. This book interestingly does not involve the cops at any point of the investigation, so for a mystery book, this is equal parts frustrating and intriguing with Andrew stumbling around to figure out how Eddie died if it wasn’t suicide. 

RACE AND MAGIC

The magic in this book invokes old earth magic, but it’s a bit confusing without much depth. The writing is too flowery in this arena and left up to a lot of interpretation. I think it’s an attempt by the author to address race as well as the implications of rich white families in the America south? But in the worst way possible. This story oddly shies away from saying ANYTHING outright. I think the issue of race is handled very poorly in this book. Which, you know, doesn’t come as a surprise to me considering the editor for this book is the same editor who worked on Docile and First, Become Ashes which also had extremely poor rep when it came to race.

So. Excuse me, this is going to be a rant.

We do have characters who aren’t white, but all those I can count on one hand. Which is ironic because it’s mentioned multiple times in the story that there are a lot of white characters. But to me, it’s sounds more like the author was using that as an excuse to acknowledge that there’s only a handful of BIPOC characters but they’re not going to do anything more about it. 

There’s Ethan (Riley’s boyfriend and maybe Asian? we don’t know), Luca (Riley and Ethan’s girlfriend) who is Black, and West (a graduate student who was Eddie’s mentor) who is Black. 

The few times race is really addressed outright is when one of these characters points out to an oblivious Andrew they’re the only people who are NOT white at almost all white functions - either when around Sam’s group of friends or at the Vanderbilt functions. What’s the point of pointing that out if nothing is going to come out of it? The Vanderbilt functions I get. Rich white college having functions for rich white kids and faculty? Sure. But the thing about Sam’s pack of friends I do not? Are we working to change the makeup of that friend group or what. Because even Riley acknowledges that the scene isn’t really something Ethan or Luca would hang around in comfortably if it wasn’t because of their connection to Riley. 

And another time race was pointed out was to say that West is the only graduate student in their program who isn’t white and the reasons he’s been held back in his research dissertation is because he’s Black. And I’m glad by the end, he does get SOME resolution on this front but by then it feels like an afterthought after all he’s been put through. The story makes it sound like West is a suspect because of his desperation to get his dissertation off the ground and is almost presented as an angry Black man who might’ve had something to do with Eddie’s death. So, I think that was gross. 

I don’t think bad rep for the sake of having rep is anything to praise in a book. I love Ethan and I like Luca (from the very little we see of them). Adding to that, when we dig deeper into the foundations of magic and how that works within this contexts of this story, it’s really awful. 

The greater implications of magic in this book being connected to old white families who own plantations in the south is a big one that skirts around the truth. If the foundation of the magic and the curses are based on the land and the blood spilled there, and the book makes it a point to remind you that Andrew inherited over $7 million from Eddie who got the money from his wealthy family, the story implies a lot and readers are only meant to read between the lines. 

I wonder why this book never says outright that Black people died on that land, that slavery was a thing, or that this is how all these white folks got their money? Why dance around it??? Sure, there’s folklore about a “curse” on the Fulton family (Eddie’s line) but it wasn’t because of how Eddie’s ancestors ran their fancy plantation homes through slavery. Which would’ve served them right I guess. But I’m actuality, the curse is because of love. Depending on who’s telling the story. And I’m only assuming the curse started because it was between 2 white people, but I don’t think it said outright.

Race is not a thing that is handled well at all in this book, and I don’t necessarily think it’s all the author’s fault when I’ve seen this unaddressed time and time again from Tor books and especially from this one editor. Flowery prose cannot hide the fact that the rep is awful. 

Andrew is an inheritor of this wealth and we don’t see him doing anything about it even at the end of the book. He’s not donating any of that money. He’s not making reparations. He admits that he’s spoiled. The closest thing to him acknowledging that there’s a class difference between him and everyone else is when he’s with Sam. Sam, who works 2 jobs to make ends meet - one legal and another not. So, it’s kind of implied that Andrew is just another rich white guy now living off his inheritance and he does not actually change in this regard when the book ends. He just wants to throw his money around and I honestly can’t see that going well with Sam when he finds out. 

Instead, the only growth we see from Andrew by the end is where he learns to shed his internalized homophobia and come to terms with Eddie’s death. It’s a very rough journey on all fronts. 

THE WRITING, AND HOW IT ISN’T MY THING

This story does have Andrew giving off Ronan Lynch (from the Raven Cycle and the Dreamers trilogy) vibes. And if Eddie were maybe Kavinsky. But I would also say the story has an aesthetic and atmosphere that I’ve only read before from The Wicker King. But the one thing that keeps me from enjoying this book as much as books like The Raven Cycle or The Wicker King is the writing style.

The writing in this is very awkward to me. Extremely awkward. I don’t even know how to describe it. Maybe that it’s too flowery? Like, the talking scenes where Andrew actually spoke to people are fine. But it’s all the moments where Andrew is alone with this own thoughts and the descriptions are long winded. I had a hard time with it at first. The sentence structure is clunky. The commas and phrasing are difficult to parse out. The writing style in those moments feels like it’s drowning in its own self importance, but doesn’t naturally flow off the page.

I did grow more used to it as the book went on and I was good with it around 30-40% of the way in, but it took a long time to get there. I normally DNF a book for less. So, for that reason I would rec reading this book by audio rather than reading with your eyeballs? I have listened to Will Damron before, but from samples I’ve listened to by him, the narration sounds like it’ll be a good one. I might get the audiobook once it comes out, because like I DO like the story minus the magic stuff and the writing style.

And maybe it’s just because I’m reading a digital ARC, but I do wonder what the text messaging will look like in the final version. It wasn’t easy trying to figure out what’s a text message and what’s not. I couldn’t tell who was texting and who was the reply when there was a text exchange back-and-forth between characters.

There’s also a lot of pronoun confusion with this writing, because the person you’d expect the “he” to be referring to (mostly a he situation because almost all the characters identify as male and we don’t have many female or non-binary characters in this book). The story might be told in limited third-person from Andrew’s POV, but that shouldn’t mean that he’s the one who’s always the default “he” in a sentence, you know? It’s very confusing.

THE FRIENDS AND THE RELATIONSHIPS

I feel like we should talk about the sex scene? I know this book isn’t a romance so maybe that’s why this throws me off. This story is surprisingly explicit at first but then has a scene break and it’s suddenly the morning after. What do you call that? Explicit AND closed door? I don’t know, I would rather just have a full fade-to-black than the whiplash that was this book. 

This book has an established polyam couple but also shows that a polyam relationship isn’t for everyone if everyone isn’t totally onboard with it. I feel bad for Del, both Andrew and Eddie’s ex-girlfriend, but I’m glad she’s cutting them off from her life and she’s getting therapy. She deserves better! 

I’m not sure if we’re to infer that Riley is trans? There’s one mention of Riley’s parents refusing him a name change and that they’re super religious. So, I’m not sure. 

So, Andrew and Eddie. It comes off to me that they have a very toxic relationship. It’s very co-dependent, and more so after their shared traumatic experience in the cavern as kids. Whatever Eddie leads, Andrew follows. Being away from Eddie is the first chance of Andrew having to just learn to be himself. In some ways, Sam almost feels like a replacement for Eddie. But it becomes clear at the end that Sam isn’t like that for Andrew, and clearly doesn’t want that to be their relationship. 

I think Eddie is a complex person who we will never know. What we do know is all through everyone else‘s eyes. He wasn’t a good friend or brother to Andrew, and Eddie stayed being as self conceited as ever even in death. I honestly don’t have a high opinion of him at all. 

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I can see why people will fall in love with this book. At a surface level, the characters are fun and carry that dangerous vibe that makes them interesting. My problems were initially with the writing style because I really just don’t love the way it sometimes went off in a flowery way where you can’t make heads or tails what’s happening in a scene. The mystery itself was a wash for me because I’ve read better. 

The way race was handled in this book was terrible to me, and I’m sure some people won’t agree, but this is my opinion and my review, and I’m not a fan. I think it really comes down to the publisher. I wish they would actually delve into and put some thought and sensitivity into the subject of race in their books because this is far from the first time I’ve experienced a book that handles race so poorly from this particular publisher and from this particular editor. I just want better. 

***Thanks to the publisher for giving me an e-ARC for review.***
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Wow! This book was amazing. Tough boys, fast cars, ghosts, and magic, what's not to love? It was the perfect read for a southern summer. Mandelo writes in such an atmospheric way that you can feel the heat and humidity. I was not expecting this book to be so deep, such a commentary on grief and queerness. Andrew felt like such a real person, truly multidimensional, as he dealt with the loss of the friend he loved, being in his spaces, and trying to figure out what happened to him, while also being on a journey of self discovery about his sexuality and all of the things Eddie meant to him and what they mean now that he's gone.

But along with being a deep book with a lot of "themes" and "character development," it's also a RAD ghost story. It's creepy and spooky and full of old houses and old families with old secrets; the danger those things possess and the danger of personal recklessness and drugs and fast cars. If you're just reading for the ghost story, the beginning might feel a little slow, but hang in there because it's SO worth it.

Finally I have to thank Lee Mandelo for including an ethically non-monogamous relationship in Summer Sons. It is not a plot point in any way (yay!) but the representation is appreciated. Thank you for that and thank you for a wonderful spooky read!
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