A guest review by Jenre
A well written coming of age story which takes an interesting look at relationship dynamics.
This review contains spoilers
Love, like everything in the universe, cannot be destroyed. But over time it can change.
The hot Texas nights were lonely for Ben before his heart began beating to the rhythm of two words; Tim Wyman. By all appearances, Tim had the perfect body and ideal life, but when a not-so-accidental collision brings them together, Ben discovers that the truth is rarely so simple. If winning Tim’s heart was an impossible quest, keeping it would prove even harder as family, society, and emotion threaten to tear them apart.
Something Like Summer is a love story spanning a decade and beyond as two boys discover what it means to be friends, lovers, and sometimes even enemies.
Something Like Series
I like coming of age stories and this book had the interesting idea of taking the story beyond the point of that tricky teenage phase and on into adulthood. The book is essentially in two sections both from the third person point of view of our hero, Ben. The first part deals with his Junior year in high school where he meets new boy Tim and has his first relationship. The second half deals with Ben as he copes with College life and more. I’ve had to put spoiler warnings on this review because it’s going to be hard to talk about my feelings about the book without making mention of some of the things that happen quite far into the story. This is mainly because whilst I loved the first half of the book, I had some problems with the second half and in order to explain myself I shall have to make reference to some of the events in that second half.
Let’s start with some of the things I did like about this story. Firstly, I really liked Ben – and that didn’t change throughout the book. Many coming of age books has their teenage hero as the nerdy character, and this book was no exception. However, Ben isn’t actually that much of a nerd, he’s just not a jock. He hates sport and isn’t very good at it which I suppose puts him in the nerdy category, but he’s certainly not the sort of super-intelligent nerdy guy that can populate some coming of age books. Instead Ben is what I would consider just a normal kid. He’s got brains but he’s not top of the class. He’s not in the ‘popular’ gang but he has friends and gets on OK at school even with being openly gay. In short Ben would have been the sort of kid I probably would have hung about with at school and that went a long way towards me liking him a great deal. I also liked that he made mistakes and acted up like a teenager usually does, and yet under all that he’s still a nice guy. One of his main flaws is a tendency to be led astray by others or be too passive when it comes to his friends and their demands. In fact if I had any frustrations with his character it was that he allows others to make decisions for him, and also that he made snap decisions based on the will of his friends rather than thinking about what he actually wanted. On the other hand his loyalty to his friends is also one of his strengths as a character.
The first half of the book was very absorbing and I greatly enjoyed reading Ben’s developing relationship with Tim, the frustrations of loving someone who refused to come out of the closet, and the pain of hard choices that had to be made. This part of the story, which takes about half the book, takes place over a single school year and I felt the concentrated time period worked well in getting us to understand Ben as a young man and follow his joys and sorrows.
The second half of the book picks up after a gap of about two years and then follows Ben over a period of a few years as he meets Jace and reconnects with Tim. Whilst this section had a really interesting love triangle storyline, I became uneasy about the way the author handled the relationship between Ben and Jace. The story skips forward, often in years, and we get a snapshot of two men who love each other a great deal. The time slows down again as Tim starts to intrude in that relationship, but speeds up again later. This gave this section a rather disjointed feel. I also knew that for Tim and Ben to get their happy ending then something had to be done about Jace – I didn’t like that, and was even more unhappy about the way that aspect was handled in the story, mainly because I felt it tipped the book too far into melodrama. Plus I liked Jace a great deal more than I did Tim.
Even though I didn’t like Tim very much, I thought the author had taken a brave step in making him a very flawed and rather selfish man. Tim and Ben have a relationship that’s very much push/pull. Ben loves Tim and can’t help the attraction he feels, even when he also loves Jace. It was an interesting dynamic which I felt the author explored well. I never doubted Ben’s love for Tim or Jace and wholly understood how helpless he feels when faced with Tim and the sexual desire and consuming love Ben has for Tim.
Overall, this has been a difficult book to review because there was a lot to love about it. The character of Ben, his relationship with his parents and his friend Allison, and the way that he’s a genuinely nice guy who wants to do the best for himself and those he loves were all huge plus points for me. As was the fact that all the main characters are very well rounded and fully realised as people; the writing is excellent and pulled me quickly into the story. And yet, the second half was slightly disappointing for me, especially the disjointed feel of the narrative and the way the situation with Jace is resolved.
Something Like Summer is still a good book though and one I would recommend to readers who like coming of age stories or stories where love is shown in all its complexities. This is the first book I’ve read by Jay Bell and I liked it enough that I will certainly be reading more of his books in future.