Comic book geek Wesley Hudson is in love with his best friend, but between dealing with his successful YA writing mother, the potential closure of his favourite bookshop (that’s also his employer) and dealing with his brother’s upcoming wedding, he’s got more than enough on his plate to worry about.
Julian Winter’s new book, The Summer of Everything, is full of youthful, summer-inflused energy that reminded me a lot of the cult teen-film Empire Records, or the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels with music replaced by books.
But Winters doesn’t seem to know when enough is enough as trope after trope pile up and the cast of characters fail to truly stand out from one another. Wesley (named after Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation) is ‘geek-boy’, his crush Nico is ‘skater-boy’, his roommate Ella is ‘angry goth-girl’, Zay is the ‘Black friend’ and they rarely get to step out of their assigned pigeon-holes.
This is compounded by the plot(s). Not only is Wesley trying to reveal his feelings to Nico (the complications get ridiculous after a while), he also has to mend his relationship with his brother, while trying to save his bookshop by convincing his crazy gang of friends to go out fundraising, while dealing with his famous mother, while worrying about school, while also having meaningful conversations about race and sexuality.
My biggest gripe with the book is that everyone reads like a ‘zanny character in a rom-com’ but none of them came across like people, which makes it hard to invest in a romance at all. While there is a lot of good stuff here, and well-meaning messages to go with it, The Summer of Everything is trying to be too many things at the same time.
Plus, you also want to be very confident in your own writing before throwing shade at others. The thinly veiled reads of a successful vampire series come off as a touch petty, and unearned by the stilted prose.
If you’re after queer YA romances, this might scratch your itch for now, but there are better ones out there.
By Chad Armstrong
The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters is published by Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press, on September 8, 2020.
Advance review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.