Thanks to NetGalley and Tordotcom for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 28th, 2021
Synopsis: Lee Mandelo’s debut Summer Sons is a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost.
Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.
As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble.
And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall. (Goodreads)
I want to say at the onset that Summer Sons is receiving mostly rave reviews, so my slight disappointment may be due to me just being in the wrong mood(?) My biggest complaints concern the characters and molasses-like slowness of the first half. I struggled with connecting to any of the characters, especially Andrew, who I really didn’t like until the last third of the book, when I began to understand him more. The story also tackles a lot: loss, drugs, relationships, car racing, competitive academia, curses, etc. and at times there just seemed to be an excruciating amount of minutiae to plow through. I freely admit I resorted to skimming some of the longer chapters, especially the sections that were like The Fast and the Furious. But there were also some things that I loved about this including: the uniqueness of the story, the diversity of the characters and their relationships, the Southern Gothic tone, the ultimate direction of the central mystery, and the final resolution, which much to my surprise had me tearing up a little. Ironically, given that I’m usually such a nut for horror, is that for me, the strengths of this book lie more in its thoughtful exploration of trauma, grief and loss, not the supernatural aspects, which until the last few chapters left me frequently confused as to what was happening.
I really hate writing reviews like this because I’m all over the place with it. I’d like to say that Summer Sons still has me thinking about it three days after I finished, so that’s another plus. In the end, if you’re a horror fan who’s looking for something different and the premise intrigues you, I’d say give this a try. And as always, don’t just go by my opinion. Please check out the other reviews on Goodreads.