Cover Image: Summer Sons

Summer Sons

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Member Reviews

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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I gave this book 3.5 rounded up to 4.  It was a little harder to get into than I was expecting, but the narrator of the audio book helped a lot.  I really felt like he embodied the main character and narrator.  This did give me the southern gothic vibes I was hoping for.  I think part of what made it drag is that I didn’t really like the characters and had a hard time empathizing with them.  That being said we meet Andrew at a low point, he has just lost his best friend Eddie to what appears to be suicide.  Andrew is selfish and focused on finding out what really happened to Eddie which causes him to hurt some of the people he has met and who try to help him on his way.  Otherwise the story had everything you could want from a southern gothic: a creepy haunt, family curse, and mystical occurrences.
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Rating 3.5 but rounding down to three as it’s closer to a 3 for me, bumped up the half point because of the first half of the book.

I really enjoyed the first 50-60% of this novel, there was a lot more of the creepiness factor and was a bit faster paced. The second half seemed to drag on. Normally I finish my audiobooks in a day but this one took me several to finish the second half because it would lose my attention. 

Also, I didn’t particularly care about the academia side of things because I felt like half the time it was just like a footnote until it could be used more. (IE it would just be referenced every now and again only to say he was skipping and he only ever went to school whenever their just happened to be important info to be discovered) I’d rather it either been more centered around the academia world or more of the racing world instead of a little of each

With that said, the writing itself was beautifully done and so great at painting a picture and creating atmosphere.
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Because this review is specifically for the audiobook, I will just say that Will Damron did an absolutely phenomenal job. This is a book that is so deeply affected by its location that his accent and cadence were hyper important in delivering the story in an authentic way and Macmillan Audio really nailed their casting on this one. 

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I don't normally give out a five star rating for a book unless its both technically perfect AND hits some key points/feelings that are often indescribable for me personally. The fifth star, for me, is something that is deeply personal and so I never argue when another reader and I are on the 4/5 split. So I struggled a bit with what to give this one. It is a technically perfect work of art. Stunning prose; full characters who feel like real, breathing people; rich, complex relationships; and a story that manages to be beautifully atmospheric while not sacrificing pace all come together with a tight, fitting ending. 

This book is everything it promises to be and more and I genuinely cannot recommend it enough. It is a rare book indeed where, just 100 pages in, I was telling people "you need to preorder this right now." 

But, for me, I know a book hits that "indescribable" point when I want to turn it over and start again the moment I read the last few words. Here, the first time through, the book felt so nostalgic (growing up in the same area, having several similar life experiences) that finishing it for the first time felt like reading a beloved tale for the nth time. That's something I don't think I've ever been able to say about a book before, but the way Mandelo captures the utter southerness of their location, there feels like no other way to describe it. The characters felt like people so real they were about to walk of the page and the location was just as palpable. 

This book has a LOT of praise points (I honestly tried to think of something nitpicky I could say about it - came up empty). but how Mandelo manages to write the early 20s/LGBTQ experience in a way that feels deeply ordinary and familiar while also weaving in an incredibly unique ghost story that manages to feel fresh AND timeless at the same time? 

That is just unquestionable talent. 

I don't think I've ever been so excited to see what a debut author does next.
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Eh. I wasn't really feeling this book. I really wanted to get into it. I thought it had some good potential, but I just couldn't. It was really hard for me to finish, and I hadn't been reading it for Netgalley, I probably would have stopped and not finished it. 

It was like the book was confused; it couldn't decide what it wanted to be. Horror? Sci fi? Paranormal romance? LGBT erotica?

I think the author just overreached and instead of getting something cohesive and great, he got something subpar and all frazzled and uninteresting. The plot just didn't hold my interest, and the "big twist" was super predictable. 

Plus, none of the characters were particularly likable, and they all seemed like ridiculous stereotypes. 

I also didn't love the narrator's voice. AT times, he sounded genuinely southern, and at other times, he sounded like he was desperately TRYING to sound southern. Overall, this one just wasn't for me.
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I ended up physically reading this book, I could not get the app to stop distorting the audio quality when I wore headphones and listened at higher speeds. So this is not a review for the quality of the audiobook but for the book itself.

This book was the definition of a slow burn investment for me. At first I wasn't sure how I would feel because the pacing is pretty slow as Andrew gets acclimated to his new setting and grieving over the loss of his best friend but as the story progressed I found this slow start really allowed me to connect to these characters in a way I wouldn't have been able to if it were a more traditionally fast paced mystery dark academia book. I was pleasantly surprised by the fast and furious vibes and the relationship developments between characters and was always itching to read it when I wasn't. In general I think the setting was not my favorite to be in, since as a reader I am not generally drawn to this dark, toxic settings but besides that personal preference I am really glad I picked this one up and would recommend it to anyone looking for a new dark academia that focuses on toxic masculinity, and queer identity with southern gothic vibes.
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Well. Well. Well. This book was an interesting one! I felt like The Fast and the Furious was combined with Flatliners and Call Me By Your Name. And I mean this in all of the best ways. I felt that the haunts and scary bits in this book were almost second hand. I was so pulled in by the characters and their relationships with one another and the hunt for answers about Eddie's research and death that I would breeze through a scary part and have to go back because I felt like I didn't fully appreciate it. I'm all for the scares but when you add some interesting character building AND a budding romance I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT! The descriptions made me feel like I could feel what the main character was going through too. 

There were a few things that didn't feel complete to me and some things that I wish Mandelo would have gone in more depth with. However, I felt that, overall, the story was great. Very entertaining! The subtle but visible issues that are highlighted was also something that I liked but wished there was more on them. I recommend this for fans of Horror, LGBTQIA+, and Thrillers. This was a Audio listen for me and LOVED the narrator.

TW:Violence, Death, Suicide, Racism, Homophobia, Drug & Alcohol use 

*Thank you to Netgalley and McMillan Audio for the audio ARC for an honest review.
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A week has gone by, and I'm still thinking about this book. The narration immediately sucked me in, and the scope of the story kept me hooked the whole way. I was emotionally invested in the characters and the mystery that slowly unraveled. A book that kept coming to mind was The Good House during this read- not quite similar in plot but in feel. Horror fans who enjoy rich character development and a strong story will have a great time with Summer Sons.
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This was good but not as good as I hoped. The pacing was slow and confusing at the beginning, and it wasn't a pleasant reading experience for me. I wasn't a fan of the car racing sections, but that is a personal preference. I loved the Southern Gothic tone of the book as well as the folk lore elements. While this wasn't a new favorite, I would read more work by this author.
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I'm not sure if I'm disappointed by the ending cause I'm unconsciously holding the book to standards I have for different genres of books, or if it just wasn't a satisfying ending.
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Andrew and Eddie were best friends, closer than brothers. Their level of attachment to one another went above and beyond what you would even expect of the closest of friends. When Eddie left Andrew behind to begin his graduate studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, it was unsurprisingly a tough transition. At least from Andrew's perspective.

Six months later, just before Andrew was getting ready to join Eddie in Nashville, Andrew receives news that Eddie has died, an apparent suicide.

Now Andrew has inherited Eddie's house in Nashville, complete with a roommate he doesn't know, or necessarily want. Andrew is also left with the haunting suspicion that Eddie's death isn't as cut and dry as the authorities are making it out to be.

As Andrew begins to settle into the Nashville house, becoming involved in Eddie's University studies and his friend group, he learns there was a whole side to Eddie he didn't know. Street racing, hot boys, late nights, hard drugs, ominious topics of study and dark family secrets; Andrew doesn't understand how all of this could have been going on with Eddie without him knowing it. 

The deeper he gets into Eddie's secrets, the more out of control he feels. Not helping matters is the strange presence haunting him, wanting to possess him.

Summer Sons is a Queer Southern Gothic story incoporating a cut-throat academic setting with the dangerous and exciting world of street racing. With this description in mind, this should have been a great fit for my tastes. I did get some of the Southern Gothic vibes I was hoping for, as well as a desirable level of angst and grief. I also got a touch of academic atmosphere. Unfortunately, I also got bored and confused.

I did end up listening to the audiobook, which I actually feel is the only way I was able to get through it. I may have given up otherwise. The narrator was fantastic. I loved how he had the accent to fit the story; that's always a plus for me. I definitely recommend if you are interested in checking this one out, that you give the audiobook a go.

Overall, I think this just wasn't the story for me. The writing is strong, and I can get behind the ideas that set the foundation of the story, the execution just fell flat for me. I know a lot of Readers are going to absolutely adore this story, however, you can tell that already by reading other reviews!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I am glad I gave this one a shot and look forward to seeing what else Mandelo comes up with in the future.
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DNF at 30%

Unfortunately, this story failed to keep me interested and I found myself continuously losing focus as I listened to the audiobook. I also wasn't a big fan of the narrator, however this is probably just a me problem. I think I've realized that dark academia isn't really my thing, but fans of the genre may very well enjoy this book.
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"Are you losing control, my good pal? The clock is ticking and you can't put him off for much longer. If you can't hunt down this stuff in time you're going to drag him into it, and if he responds to the source the same way you are, it's going to be a disaster...."
Summer Sons is a dark and melodic fever dream of grief, longing, and desire. The story draws you in with the gothic, haunting atmosphere and pulls you along Andrew's uncertain path and he navigates the confusion and loss surrounding his best friend Eddie's recent death and the questions he has about it.

If you are looking for a story with atmosphere to read this autumn, look no further. There's a southern gothic vibe with painful family legacies and dark deeds and curses. With the Vanderbilt setting, there are hints of academia vibes as well (but I wouldn't call this dark academia by any means as the college setting isn't used enough for me to classify it) that converge with the small town and changing season to add both nostalgia and and a sense of discovery - especially as Andrew begins searching through Eddie's research for answers about his death.

Andrew is a character who feels trapped - too caught up in the power of Eddie's memory and their relationship to focus on himself at all. Which is complicated by his ability to interact with haunts (or ghosts) and the negative impact they have on him. On his journey for answers, he is folded into Eddie's former life - Riley, Eddie's roommate, his cousin, Sam Halse, and others all intersect Andrew's life in complex and organic ways. The character interactions are all layered, nuanced, and clouded in uncertainty that keeps you engaged.

While I guess there is technically a mystery at the core of this story, it didn't read like a mystery to me. Summer Sons at it's core felt like an exploration of self and grief while confronting the loss of someone unimaginably important to you. The plot does meander at times, and the pacing is slow (mimicking the drawl of many of the characters) but you feel everything along with Andrew making this a thoroughly immersive and at times horrifying story.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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I liked the initial concept, but I just could not get into this book. I wanted to figure out what happened to the best friend, however it was very slow paced and I didn’t like the car racing scenes and any of the characters. It didn’t even feel like the main character was progressing at all in figuring out what happened. Also I thought I’d maybe understand more about the revenants by now but it just doesn’t seem to be as focused on that.
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4.5⭐ 
I am completely shook over how much I fell for this dark, eerie story.

This is one of those books that completely absorbs you and leaves you thinking about the story long after you put it down. 

This book is said to be dark, gothic southern paranormal and that definitely sums it up perfectly. You follow the main character as he returns to Tennessee for grad school in the wake of his best friends death. But it he figuratively - and literally - haunted by his friend's death. This is definitely more on the speculative side than fantastical (so don't expect any hard explanations of the paranormal aspects) and I loved the ominous tone the unexplained paranormal aspect brought. 

This heavily explores grief and personifies the main characters grief in the form a haunting. It's dark and heavy and difficult to read at times but I thought it was handled to perfection. Andrew is so frustrating at times because he gets so wrapped up in his own loss that he loses sight of those around him. But it also such a realistic depiction of grief.

I also loved that this explored sexuality in an older cast of characters. This entire book is queer and full of queer characters, but Andrew is in his 20s and still unsure of his identity. I really appreciated getting to see this arc explored in someone older (especially as someone who didn't embrace their queer-ness until their 30s).

Also, Lee Mandelo's writing blew me away. This is stunningly written. The prose, the pacing, the descriptions, everything was so fantastically crafted. I'm obsessed with this book and it's characters and I honestly cannot wait to devour whatever Mandelo writes next.

Audiobook note: if you love accents in your audiobooks, the narrator has a southern accent and does an amazing job bring this whole story to life!
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