Cover Image: Summer Sons

Summer Sons

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Member Reviews

5/5 stars. I absolutely LOVED this. It was fan-fucking-tastic. Please excuse my language. I got major the Raven Cycle vibes from the paranormal-fantasy aspect, but I also got those vibes from the friendships and relationships. The writing had been complex, but also understandable and written in a way where you had no choice but to connect with the characters and feel for what they were doing and going through. Sam and Andrews relationship was very exploratory for Andrew, but not in a bad way at all. Andrew was able to start to figure out his sexuality and the feelings that he had had towards Eddie through his relationship with Sam, but Andrew was also falling for Sam and being open to the relationship. This book is definitely a new 2021 favorite of the year.
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I'm here to say that Summer Sons needs to be on everyones radar. Lee Mandelo delivers some truly lush prose in their debut, while telling a propulsive, nightmarish story of grief & love & obsession & betrayal. This book is INTENSE. With drag racing, the dark academia vibe, and more than a little bit of the occult in the mix, SUMMER SONS definitely shares a bit in common with THE RAVEN BOYS. That said, this is unequivocally a horror novel, and it’s frequently quite disturbing.
Full review to come on YouTube.
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“I don’t want to share not even with a dead man.” 

Survivors of a traumatic event in their teen years, best friends Andrew and Eddie are inseparable. Bonded beyond brotherhood. 

When Eddie gets early admission to Vanderbilt, for a program they both will be attending, they spend an agonizing spring apart. Andrew can’t wait to join him but Eddie seems less eager for him to come to Nashville.

When Eddie turns up dead from an apparent suicide, Andrew refuses to believe that happened. 

So Andrew heads to Nashville and steps into Eddie’s life. His house and his friends, his thesis and the research that could’ve got him killed. 

What follows is a story dripping grief from every page. Fast cars and bad decisions. Dark academia and pitch black family histories. Violence, curses, ghosts and haunted houses. I’d be remiss to not mention all the angst and sexual tension 😅. Sam. Oh, Sam. 

This queer neo-noir southern gothic horror  was exactly what I needed. 

4.5 stars rounded up.
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This is a really hard book to rate because while it is well written and has great representation of queer characters,  it wasn't the story for me. I definitely wanted more horror elements and dark academia in the first half of the novel. The mystery part of the novel picks up in the second half, but it seemed a bit too late. I want to give a shoutout to the character of Sam, who is so memorable and complex. I really loved him.
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I didn't get very far into the book before giving up on it. It wasn't that it was bad. I thought it had some interesting ideas and the writing was okay, but it's just not my speed. It's very dark, broody, and angsty. If you like those things, then this book is for you. I don't mind a dark story once in a while, but I'm picky about how it presents itself, and this one just didn't do it for me. Maybe I'll pick it up again in the future, but that probably won't happen for a very long time. 
I do love that cover though!
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Aw man... this book was such bullshit. I should have listened to my gut and DNFd it. I don't know why I bother convincing myself to keep giving books a chance when I know... I KNOW... it's not for me. Omigerd I should just learn to let them go.

I acquired a digital arc for this one ages ago, before all the buzz started up around it. And that, that right there should have been a red flag, because me and big buzz books don't typically get along. But I'm usually in lock-step with tordotcom. It's unusual for me to NOT like a book they've put out... so I just kept hoping it might get better, go someplace I wasn't expecting it to go, that it might surprise me in the end.

But. NOPE!

I just... I think I need to sit here for a bit with my disappointment.
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“That friendship was a muted fraction of the real thing, the marrow-thing, that tied them together…he couldn’t find a label that fit where he needed it to go. Maybe instead, just a hard stop: he was yours.”

Hot, smoldering southern nights. Fast cars and rough boys. A jealous revenant, insistent on being heard. Tattoos, shared in blood over clasped fists. Hungry land and family curses from a bygone era. An aching, insatiable want.

I would have read SUMMER SONS based on these vibes alone, but Mandelo delivers on so much more. The story, in brief: Eddie and Andrew have been best friends since childhood, closer than brothers. In the wake of Eddie’s apparent suicide, Andrew moves to Nashville and starts the same graduate program that Eddie was in, working to solve the mystery of his death and the darkness that has haunted them both for years.

This novel is a searing modern gothic about the weight of grief, the impenetrable uncertainty of why someone leaves us, and what it means to mourn a love that was never allowed to come to fruition. It’s very much about coming out, but not in a tidy, finished way (as if it’s ever that). Andrew’s realizations about himself are tied to bone-deep sorrow, unfulfilled desire, regret about his past actions, and confusion about what he wants now. Watching him slowly pull the pieces together about his queerness and the nature of his relationship with Eddie and start to work through some of his internalized homophobia absolutely tore my heart out - the ending just barely started to repair it.

The representation of masculinity in this book burns hot; these men remind me in many ways of the tough, rural boys I grew up with, branded by the toxic veins of masculinity, but with a vulnerable, soft underbelly that gutted me. Mandelo reckons with the crushing racism of academia, the legacy of slavery and how it manifests in the South, and how oblivious white people - even/especially white queers - can be to these facts. The immersive writing, combined with the powerful, almost sultry audiobook narration, stripped me bare; there is a raw physicality to this book, sometimes gritty and sometimes sensual, bringing to life both body horror and tender affection. And I haven’t even begun talking about the trans and poly rep!

An absolute favorite of this year and a book I won’t forget for a long time. Thank you to Tor.com for the ARC and Macmillan Audio for the ALC!

Content warnings: discussions of suicide, driving while intoxicated, violence, homophobia, dead/mutilated animals, death of a loved one
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Thank you Netgallery and Tordotcom for this ARC!

Wow. The only word I can use to describe this is “dense”. It is a sweltering tale of southern heritage at its worst and finest. This has so much to it and is captivating in its uniqueness. It’s a tale of love and lost and finding yourself despite yourself. It’s incredibly detailed both in description and in emotion. The writing is DENSE with an empathy that radiates through the page. It’s a complex poetic piece of ART.
I both adore and despise Andrew with the same ferocity. Sam is a juxtaposition of a character and had me cheering for and against him all at once. And I would give my left lung for Riley. There’s really nothing like the haunted sticky south, with drugs, fast cars, and hot men.
You know it’s a good book when you learn more about yourself too (and all those new vocabulary words!). I absolutely adore this book. In fact, I’m going to re-read as soon as I post this.
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I overall enjoyed this book, particularly as a fall read. It had a chilling atmosphere that lends itself to the Southern Gothic genre. I was pulled in by the wrenching narratives of grief and the realization of one's sexuality. I wasn't as interested in the drugs and street racing, and Andrew was very irritating, but it didn't make me dislike the book entirely.
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This book didn't hold my attention. Despite a very good audiobook narrator and this absolutely gorgeous cover, I found myself bored and kinda zoning out. I didn't care about the fast cars and drug scene (especially because they honestly weren't that important? Or at least they aren't dug into enough to make them important). Where this book really shines is in those spooky scenes where it's just Andrew and the revenant. But there weren't very many of those.

I would have loved to dig more into the old plantation families and their curses. We get to know the Fulton curse but we know by the end that other old families also dug into the occult but we don't actually know what that means? It's just conveniently tossed in there as an explanation for other stuff going down.
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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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