Cover Image: Summer Sons

Summer Sons

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Member Reviews

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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When Andrew goes to Nashville, Tenn, to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt, his academic endeavors are completely sidetracked by his desire to investigate the  apparent suicide of his foster brother and best friend, Eddie. Those efforts are not very productive as Andrew's haunted by Eddie's revenant and seems to spend most of the first half of the book being drunk, high, fighting, or driving too fast. Andrew does apparently find himself about midway through and finally starts trying to understand just where Eddie's research into southern Gothic folklore was headed. Unfortunately, no one at the University or in Eddie's circle of friends seems to have any of his documents or files. By time the story does gets more interesting, it's clear that Andrew and his friends are up against nothing as benign as ghostly folk tales, but dangerous curses. Fine audio performance by Will Damron.
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Some people like a “slow burn,” but there really has to be a limit as to how slow a book can burn, and Summer Sons really pushes it. It’s marketed as dark academia meets fast cars & hot boys, but there is literally no academia in the whole damn book, unless you count skipping class. As for the fast cars and hot boys, yes, there are a few car scenes, and lots of descriptions of hot boys and abs, and shoulders, and jaw curves- but that does not make a solid story. 
This is the story of Andrew, whose best friend Eddie just died of apparent suicide, and left Andrew his house at college. Andrew doesn’t believe that Eddie killed himself, so he moves into Eddie’s house and immerses himself in Eddie’s last few months of life to try and unravel this mystery. Mostly this book is the reader knowing everything & just waiting on the main character to figure anything out. It’s a long wait.
Props to this book for being full of non-stereotypical queer guys and for one really hot sex scene, but that was just about it for me.
Honestly, I kind of wished I had DNF’d. The ending was that anticlimactic to me.
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Oh wow this book was so good - the audio was a bit funky, but I was okay with dealing with it. I freaking loved this book and the characters - comparing a book to fast and furious automatically makes me read it.

I’ve never read anything like this and I can gladly say summer sons didn’t disappoint whatsoever. This book was so much more than a queer mystery - there’s so much character development. 

I highly recommend this one!
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher I was able to listen to the audiobook format in exchange for an honest review.
***
Summer Sons is a story of grief and loss and so much yearning. 
Andrew has been looking forward to going to Nashville, so he could finally see Eddie again. Eddie who kept pushing him off, but can’t any longer because Andrew is finally joining him at the university there. Or, that was the plan.
 Days before Andrew is to join Eddie again he is found dead, an apparent suicide. Andrew doesn’t believe Eddie is capable of that and he’s going to get answers. He moves into the house Eddie has been using and immerses himself in the life Eddie has been living without him for the last six months, meeting the people Eddie met and trying to pick up where his studies left off, if for no other reason than they might tell him more.
All the while Andrew struggles with ghosts, literally actually, and hauntings he’s struggled with ever since he was a teen and something happened to Eddie and him. Andrew has contented himself with trying to forget everything about that event but it seems Eddie has gone hunting for answers and Andrew finds himself drawn into a history that affects him just as much as it did Eddie.
Andrew struggles over his loss of Eddie and the time he wasn’t able to have with him. He also struggles with all the repressed feelings he had for Eddie that will never be answered while finding himself on a path to learning more about himself and what he wants in life going forward.
****
This story is haunting, atmospheric and beautifully written. It is described as queer Southern gothic and that is pretty fitting. I enjoyed the story overall. It was, however, a bit of a downer and took awhile for me to get through because my brain wasn’t really in the place for this particular style of story at the time, hence why my review is coming out so late. 
The story is well written but it got a bit meandering and repetitive at times. The mystery was pretty easy to solve too once the different pieces of the puzzle were put forward, even a bit before that actually. Andrew is not a particularly likable character at the beginning of the book because his need to get answers about Eddie trumps being a barely decent guy for a bit there but as he gets closer to his roommate Riley, and Sam, Riley’s cousin, he gets a bit better.
I listened to the audiobook format of this book and the narrator was really good, and definitely kept me going through the book the most.
I feel  would definitely read another book by this author again. My rating is more of a 3.5 than 3 but not entirely sure I can round up based on my person struggles with getting into the book.
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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. I also didn't really care for the narrator. I liked his accent, but it was a little distracting to be honest. 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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“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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TL;DR: A tantalizingly queer, supernatural, slow-burn, romantic thriller, embroiled in toxic academia. First third is a bit slow but things come together, with some stellar character development and plot twists. My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

First things first, because I listened to this as an audiobook I have to say--killer choice of narrator. His southern accent contributed a lot to the atmosphere of the story. 

Summer Sons is as unnerving and twisty as any good supernatural thriller, but it’s also a lot more. Andrew is haunted by his dead best friend--literally, but also metaphorically--as he struggles with his grief, anger, and confusion about their complicated relationship and its implications for his own sexual identity. This book deftly tackles lots of challenging subjects: grief, coming out, toxic work and personal relationships, rural poverty, historical legacy. And Andrew is a great character through which to do so as he straddles many worlds, walking the line between supernatural/normal, academia/laypeople, queer/straight, rich/poor, southern/non-southern. 

For personal reasons, I really connected (in a somewhat triggering way) with his navigation of power dynamics in academia as a PhD student. I think first gen college students would also find a lot to relate to. Summer Sons has a lot to say about experiences of marginality more broadly. But then Mandelo lightens the mood with sexy, fun drag racing scenes.

My only qualms about recommending Summer Sons was that I found the first 30-something percent quite slow. I felt like I knew little more at that marker than I did from the first chapter or two. Andrew’s motivations for getting closer to the gang his deceased friend Eddie spent time with were initially unclear. Frankly, the character didn’t seem to know himself very well and just seemed unmoored. Though not unrealistic for a character grieving and being haunted, it was frustrating as a reader. That said, if you can hold out for the plot and Andrew’s state of mind to stabilize, it is well worth the ride.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for giving me advance access to this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a solid slow-burn haunting. I enjoyed the rich atmosphere and the contrast between these highly educated law school students and the meddling-in-the-dark-arts shenanigans. The unease of Andrew surrounded by this other circle of friends was also quite interesting as you don't know if you should really trust their intentions. 
The writing style was solid and the plot and the characters well well developed. The setting was dark, humid, and uneasy. The love triangle was a bit much but did add another layer of complication to the whole thing. Someone coming to terms with who they really are and understanding themselves was also a bit of an unexpected  underlying theme through this darkness.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

I thought the quality of the audiobook was pretty good. Easy to listen to.

As for the story itself, I thought it was okay. It's about a college kid who is trying to figure out the reason behind his friend's death. There's a lot of mystery, some supernatural elements and all the queerness--which is everything I loved most about this story. At moments I forgot that this was even a mystery and it read more erotic (I wasn't mad about, just caught off guard). I felt like there was more background to the main characters life story and his relationships that I wanted to know more about.

There were bits of street racing stuff, that I just didn't care about at all and found a bit boring. I was also a bit confused about the politics involving all of it and just found myself skimming through those parts. The ending was also a little over my head but the reveal was cool.

Overall, I thought this was okay. I think I went into it with too high of expectations.

2/5
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Initially, this absolutely arresting cover is what caught my eye. The spooky premise only added to my interest, so I was thrilled to dive into the audio. Andrew and Eddie are the best of friends that though raised as adopted brothers for a time, are truly even closer than that. But, when the book opens, the pair has been separated by post-graduate school for six months. By the time Andrew goes to join Eddie at Vanderbilt, Eddie is dead of an apparent suicide. Andrew refuses to believe it and starts investigating on his own - surprised by the academic turn that Eddie took. Eddie looked into the occult and local oral folktales of the region that harkens back to the spooky occurrences that bonded Andrew and Eddie in their younger days.

Andrew inherits not only Eddie's belongings but also his group of friends - a mixture of academic and a wilder crowd with a love of booze, drugs, racing cars and plenty of flexibility in the bedroom. I must admit, there are a few more graphic scenes that made me wish that I didn't have this on audio - while well-performed, I am always paranoid about sex scenes blaring to life the moment I have a passenger driving with me in my car! But, mostly, I wished that Andrew was more likable. He pushes away so many people in his grief and it makes it hard for the reader/listener to connect with him as well. The plot moves a bit slowly - particularly in the beginning, but despite the summery title, this is a good Fall listen!
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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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I really wanted to love this story. Southern Gothic five, queer representation, ghost stories? What is there not to love? I felt as though I was wanting more, not really sure of what more character development, more intrigue? Solid three stars, would read this author again.

Thank you to net galley for this advanced listeners coffee.
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I found Summer Sons to be a well-written Southern gothic novel center on a queer cast of characters finding their way after one of their own commits suicide. I liked the character development but overall, the story was just not for me.
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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 haunting and tragic story about loss, identity, and inheritance was much deeper than I was expecting when I first picked it up. There are plenty of skin prickling moments, but the greater focus is on Andrew’s personal journey as he deals with the tragedy of losing his best friend. The paranormal activity he experiences is violent and creepy, but also personal to Andrew in ways he has difficulty coping with. While the story is slow to unfold, it is also a dark and beautifully written character piece that will stick with me for a long time.

The story begins with Andrew picking up Eddie’s car and arriving in Nashville just a few weeks after his best friend’s death. Though everyone seems to believe that Eddie had committed suicide, Andrew knows there was something more sinister at work. However, with his only evidence being Eddie’s revenant, it is hard to get anyone else to agree. Convinced he is the only one who can uncover the truth, Andrew goes to Nashville to find the answers he is looking for.

Immediately, Andrew comes off as both an angry and impulsive character driven by grief. He distances himself from others and is quick to anger at any mention of Eddie. Without any solid leads, Andrew is also aimless with both his feelings and his investigation. All of this makes him one of the most realistic grieving characters I have read, but also difficult to like. Andrew’s destructive spiral and lack of direction make it hard for both him and the plot to move forward. Even when things do begin to come together and he becomes more open with his feelings, there are still frequent ‘relapses’ into old patterns that can be repetitive and frustrating. My reactions to this experience are mixed. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed the slog, but the experience so closely resembles reality for people like Andrew that I appreciate both the skill and risk in creating this character. Though I personally did not connect with Andrew, I can see this being a very important representation for others. 

In addition to his grief, Andrew is made to do some soul searching about who Eddie was to him. From the start, he claims that they were more than just best friends. However, he also hesitates to label them as ‘brothers’. Meanwhile, everyone else refers to Andrew as “Eddie’s”. Unfortunately, with Eddie dead, Andrew is left to figure out what it all means on his own. So much of Andrew’s world growing up centered on Eddie that in addition to trying to define their relationship, Andrew must also re-discover himself. Andrew’s attempts to re-discover both his personal and sexual identity is intriguing and his chemistry with Sam adds some great tension.

Surrounding Andrew’s personal journey is a Southern gothic tale with a scholastic twist. Inheritance and old blood is at the heart of the greater mystery. However, there are a few twists on who inherits, what they inherit, and why that introduces new and interesting questions around this theme. Themes of both ‘classic’ and institutionalized racism are also skillfully woven into the narrative. Though a lot of these ideas are rich and intriguing, I felt more time could have been spent developing them a little more. Digging deeper would not necessarily be in Andrew’s character, but I was left wanting more and felt it would have helped the pieces come together in a more satisfying way.	

Overall, Summer Sons is a wonderful but heavy read. It has everything you could want from a paranormal gothic horror and then some. However, most of the characters are unlikeable and a lot of time is spent on them trying to manage their emotional baggage. It is heavy, but worth it if character focused stories are your jam. If you are looking for a mind bending mystery or something that gets into the deeper history of the region, you may want to skip this one. I experienced this book as an audiobook and felt it was excellently narrated. Trigger warnings for this book include: Drug use, graphic violence, loss of a loved one, suicide, depression/mental health, racism and terminal illness.
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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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I couldn't get into this one. I really wanted to and the narrator was great but the story just didn't appeal to me like I had hoped it would. Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ALC.
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I think I am in the minority of people who did not enjoy this book.  I can't quite put my finger on what didn't work for me, something about the writing style and setting never clicked for me.  I felt disconnected from the story, even though I tend to love ghost stories.  I was invested in the mystery but overall I just couldn't get into this, but I think it was a me problem not a book problem.
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Listening to this book, I couldn't help but think of how many people have already loved this story and wonder what was wrong with me that I could not connect with it the same way. Not every book is for every reader though. To me, I just did not connect with the characters at all. They were self-destructive and I didn't detect any character growth. I also felt like the plot was a bit repetitive (possibly because I have zero interest in cars or racing). The writing was good, but I had trouble in the beginning getting into the groove. Since this was an audiobook advanced copy, it is possible that I just didn't connect with the narrator. I don't actually know EXACTLY what it was that felt missing for me with this book. I only know that I didn't connect with it the way that I expected to and I feel a little disappointed. I didn't DISLIKE the book, but I didn't connect with it either. I am confident that I am in the minority with this review though and I am happy for all the readers who loved this book as much as they expected to.
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