Summer Sons is a haunting, modern southern gothic, dark academia ghost story that follows two blood-bound best friends, Andrew and Eddie. The story takes place six months after Eddie’s apparent suicide. But Andrew is convinced that there’s more to Eddie’s death — that he would never kill himself. So Andrew enrolls at the same university in Nashville that Eddie was attending and begins associating with Eddie’s sketchy former friends, hoping to find out whether they had anything to do with his friend’s death. As Andrew begins investigating Eddie’s death, he unearths a plethora of dark secrets, lies, and betrayals in the process. What Andrew didn’t know is that all of these secrets were waiting for him.
This dark academia book ended up being a wild ride of a story and turned out to be much more than I expected. There is a lot going on here: horror, action, mystery, coming of age, blood-soaked family secrets, murder, curses, hungry ghosts, blood rituals, hot boys, fast cars, sex, and drugs. This was an intense, raw, and wild read with some pretty heavy themes such as toxic masculinity, self-loathing, grief, and shame, all of which added an extra compelling element to it.
The character development here is phenomenal, especially the relationship tension between Andrew and one of Eddie’s friends, Sam Halse. Every character in the story is extremely well fleshed out and multidimensional, making me feel as if I knew each of them by the time I finished the book. The horror element in the novel was genuinely creepy and terrifying, and I liked the way it dipped in and out as the plot unraveled. Interestingly, it was subtle at times and in-your-face at others.
What I especially liked about the book was how messy and chaotic the relationships were — much like they are in real life. Each of the characters is damaged, and toxic relationships abound. I tend to love stories surrounding messy relationships, and we received that in abundance here. The characters are wild, reckless, confused and in some cases, even traumatized. Yet, what I found notable was how I could relate to each of them on different levels. Their yearning became my yearning — their heat, confusion, and angst — mine. The story was brutal in some places and totally heartbreaking in others. Yet, I also found it fascinating how I grew to love certain characters whom I’d initially hated earlier in the book.
Additionally, The prose in the book was a joy to read with its rich, lush descriptions, rendering the novel visceral and atmospheric — almost dreamy in places. I could feel the sweltering heat of the scorching Tennessee summer as well as the deep, bone-chilling cold of the ghost. The book was poetic and beautifully written and successfully invoked a vivid sense of place. It’s the kind of book that drags you under and doesn’t want to let go.
I enjoyed the utterly satisfying ending, which, I admit, wrecked me for a couple of days. My only niggle with the book was that it took a while to get going. It’s definitely a “slow burn,” and I found myself kind of bored throughout the first part of it. But once it picked up, this adrenaline-fueled story absorbed my attention until the explosive ending, and I completely lost myself in it. I ended up loving this clever, spooky, and original story with its found family vibe and sinister plot. Recommended!
A huge thank you to Netgalley and McMillan for providing a review copy of this book.