The Summer I Died – extreme horror with heart

The Summer I Died ★★★★★
Ryan C. Thomas
Coscom Entertainment, 2009 (First published 2006)

****WARNING!!! This book may cause violent seizures, recurring nightmares, and ongoing medical bills for psychological counseling. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK****

I finally feel able to write a review for this terrifying, gripping, grotesque book. Just a few words on what impressed me the most about this short debut. There’s a good chance I’ll run out of meaningful adjectives long before this review is finished, so bear with me if I get a little repetitive.

One:  The Summer I Died is so very unrelenting. Once it starts, it just does not let up. It drags you along for the ride, kicking and screaming, and does not let go even though like me, you probably started crying “Uncle!” way before the ending. It’s been a while since a book made me faint, throw up, cry, and grimace all within the span of a few pages. That summer i diedis awesome writing. Thomas’s prose is spare and cuttingly to the point. His descriptions are so effective that this book unfolds in full-on technicolor. There are a few scenes I will never, ever be able to wash from my memory, even with years of counseling.

Two: This book could have so easily degenerated into mindless torture porn, but it’s saved from that fate by Roger and Tooth. I just fell in love with these guys, so well-written and believable. Roger, the do-good college bound son and his best friend Tooth, the left behind, good-looking roughneck with father issues. Neither is made of hero material, but when caught up in a living nightmare, each rises to the occasion in his own way. I had a particular soft spot for Tooth – his defiance and gritty determination to escape made me think, if something like this were to ever happen, that’s the guy I want at my side. The indignities inflicted upon his abused and defenseless body made me weep.

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Three: The other twist in the book that really upped the rating for me is the involvement of Roger’s sister. The scenes involving her torture occur in another room and like Roger who can only hear her guttural screams, we are left to only imagine what depravities are being inflicted on her body, as opposed to knowing for sure. This makes for a very chilling juxtaposition to the explicit violence inflicted on Roger and Tooth which is described in minute, excruciating detail and leaves nothing to the imagination. Roger’s torment over the suffering of his sister is also wrenching. His final vision of her is horrifying and I will never forget it.

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Overall, this is a book I would recommend carefully because it certainly isn’t for everyone. If graphic violence is not your bag – STAY AWAY. If you are the adventurous sort however, and are looking for a tale with heart that’s going to traumatize you to your very core then by all means READ THIS BOOK. Just thinking about it again and writing this review has made me bump it up from four to five stars. It really is a diamond in the rough.

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