Review: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

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ARC received from the publisher (Tordotcom) in exchange for an honest review.

Part mystery, part creepy Southern Gothic ghost story, part dark academia, part an exploration of queer masculinity and grief, Summer Sons was like nothing else I ever read. I wasn’t sure if it’d be up my alley, I don’t go for horror, and the ARC request was of the experimental why-the-hell-not-my-friends-like-it kind, but damn it was good. I picked it up at exactly the right time.

Andrew is in pieces after his childhood best friend Eddie suddenly died. He knows that what looks like a suicide isn’t and, haunted by Eddie’s ghost, sets off to follow his steps at university, meet his friends, and find out what really happened.

Also, he might be into guys without knowing it yet.

“I’m not gay.”

“Oh my god,” Riley murmured. His laugh was forced and, Andrew thought, incredulous. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You’re serious?”

The story starts off fairly slow. Andrew’s idea of investigating is drinking, doing drugs, racing, getting acquainted with Eddie’s friends, avoiding talking about his feelings, and doing the bare minimum of Eddie’s schoolwork he was supposed to be following up on. His discovery of his sexuality is even slower because he’s an oblivious moron (oh, do we love to see it). But slowly and all the more surely, the story drew me in until I read the last part in one go.

I thought I wouldn’t be too into it because horror, but it’s so character-focused and queer in a messy and unlabelled way it ended up being very much to my liking. The atmosphere is spot on, it’s quotable as hell, and I loved the side characters, especially Riley aka the one sane person. I also found it interesting how, for the lack of a better world, masculine it is – fistfights, racing, cheap beer, and all.

All in all, I’d highly recommend you give it a try.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: anyone looking for a seasonal read, dark academia, and varied queer representation
Not recommended to: can’t think of any obvious drawbacks beside the content warnings

Content warnings: deals with possible suicide and self-harm in detail, homophobia and use of slurs by a dickhead of a minor character, copious alcohol and drug use

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