Book Bloggers Review The Boys Of Summer

Post Cannon Commentary or Where I Muse on The Boys of Summer

So, remember how I said I’d keep up with the CBR after I met my goal?  Obviously I lied.  I’ve read a bunch of stuff, but haven’t reviewed it (always the catch about this for me!).  However.  I was given a copy of a book by its author, through CBR, and it seems wrong not to write up that review immediately upon finishing the book, which I have.  So, while there are several other things that should have reviews before this, I want this to get written, and thusly, here it is.

The Boys of Summer by Ciaran West will destroy you and make you tremedously uncomfortable, and I mean that as high praise.  It’s rare that a book will get so under your skin that you think about it when it’s not in front of you, and this one will do that.  Set in Limerick in the 80s, this is the story of 11 year old (nearly 12) Richie South and his friends, in a very…eventful…summer of their youth.  Tragedy strikes the neighborhood when a child is found raped and murdered – this isn’t a spoiler, but rather a point upon which most of the novel revolves, even though it’s often indirect.  Richie and his friends want to figure out who did it and bring them to justice, in a way many a small or teenaged boy has wanted in fiction for, well, pretty much ever.  If you are thinking of Stand By Me right now, don’t, other than to appreciate the fact that both involve coming of age stories of boys during summers with some darkness surrounding them.
Richie is our narrator, and it’s a wonderful challenge to read from his perspective.  The whole of the book is written in Limerick dialect, slang and all, but I found this a help rather than a hindrance.  It brought me more fully into the world of these boys when I could use their vocabulary, even if I had to look some of it up.  I will say that most of my discomfort came from seeing through his eyes and into his head – as an adult, and a woman at that, seeing into the mind of an 11 year old boy was…I don’t know a good word for it. Unsettling?  There’s a lot more adult in there mixed with all the kid stuff that I wasn’t prepared for.  Reading about his first romance with the new neighbor girl, Marian, made me acutely uncomfortable, both because they were so young, and because I could remember BEING that young (and at his age, that was soo not where my mind was yet).
Richie is exactly as mixed up as you’d expect from a young boy on the verge of puberty, experiencing love, loss, and the complications of friendship for the first time.  This last is, perhaps, the best facet of the book for me.  I loved reading the dynamics of these boys, especially as I watched them see what any adult would about one of their friends.  There is a scene between Richie and his father near the end of the novel that is one of the most brilliant parent/child conversations I’ve ever read.  The parent/child relationships in this book are great overall.  Richie and his Mam are wonderful, and such a contrast to Marian and hers, or Joe and his Pa.  There’s so much going on here, and it’s explored with a light hand that lets you really see it the way the kids do, but be able to read beyond it with the eyes of an adult.
Really, this is a great novel and incredibly well written.  If you are weak stomached or don’t like reading books that challenge your comfort level, you might want to leave off.  It is dark, and gets much darker than you expect as it goes along.  The end is, for me, incredibly unsatisfying, but I’m fairly certain that is the point – most real endings are.

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Cannonball Read IV: The Boys Of Summer by Ciarán West

By Mswas Sawsm | Posted Under Book Reviews | Comments (8)


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boysofsummer.jpg[Let’s keep the comments spoiler free, folks. – mswas]

I know Ciarán West through an online friend – you could say he’s “Pajiba-adjacent.” To be honest, though, I don’t really know him (although all signs point to him actually existing, unlike some people).

When I saw that West had written a book, I bought it to help a new writer, but I didn’t hold out much hope. As someone who’s known to friends and family as a voracious reader, and someone who’s dabbled in writing herself, I’ve been given writing of a LOT of different quality over the years. Most are people’s first stabs at writing anything at all, few have had any edits done, and most, honestly, are not very good. Even as the moderator of Cannonball Read IV, authors who’ve approached us with offers of their self-published novels have had skills that, shall we say…vary greatly.

But then, I read The Boys Of Summer.

Wow.

West creates a vivid and engrossing world in his novel. Told by 11-year-old Richie, The Boys Of Summer is the story of one summer week in 1989 Ireland.

It’d been boiling for weeks. Mam said last time we’d a summer like this was in 1977, when she was pregnant with me. I used to wonder what she’d looked like; twelve years younger, with a big belly on her. I seen pictures of her from before that, when she was young; people used to say she was beautiful. She just looked like Mam to me.

We view the events of that week through Richie’s eyes as he deals with the dynamics in the neighborhood, his home, his burgeoning love life, his parents, his friends. “The boys:” Dermot, Shane, Joe, Dara, Seán, and Richie hang around together that boring summer, and they pounce on the news that a violent crime against a younger child had been committed in the Quarry. Based on some personal information from one of their own, they decide who they think the culprit is and then they investigate.

But this is no Scooby Doo mystery where hijinks ensue. This is a real story with harsh truths that takes a turn into the sinister. I raced through it all headlong with Richie as he interacted with each of his friends, his mother, his father, Marian – the new girl next door, and the rest of the neighborhood.

Richie is like little Jack in Emma Donaghue’s Room. We read the words of his naive view of the world, but we know they are not completely accurate. In seeing Jack or Richie’s skewed perspectives, the reader sees the real truth of the matter. Jack, of course, had a completely distorted take on reality, but Richie’s viewpoint rang true through that a similar falseness.

Mam would get cross if you took too long. ‘It’s just common sense,’ she’d say. She said that about a lot of things I was no good at.

Though the boys’ Irish slang was not in my wheelhouse, I found myself sighing with recognition and approval many times at West’s prose. Here’s Richie’s comment over whether to tell Shane about his time spent with Marian:

I felt like telling him straight out what me and her had done. I didn’t though, cos you’re not supposed to tell. I wasn’t a gentleman, but I knew that.

I also loved Richie’s moments with his Mam:

‘You know I love the bones of you, don’t you?’ She turned off the gas under the kettle, cos it had started whistling.‘Yeh-huh,’ I could feel a blush coming all over me, and I didn’t want her to see it. I loved her too, but you couldn’t really say it.

At the moment, the moment, where the novel turns on a dime, West offers us a fervent hope that ultimately must be dashed. We ride it out to the end, as he closes the novel with a quieter hope, a true hope for the future, for Richie and for us all.

Well done, Ciarán. Well done.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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The Boys Of Summer

The Boys of Summer by Ciarán West

Review by Janna Mashburn
Buy Book Amazon
Buy book UK
Smashwords

Synopsis from goodreads:
A lot can happen in a week.
It’s the sweltering summer of 1989 and eleven year old Richie South is spending his days getting up to no good with the boys from the Thomondgate estate. And away from prying eyes, he’s busy falling under the spell of the new girl in town, Marian. Then one morning five year old Tommy Kelly turns up dead, and nothing will ever be the same again.
The Boys think they know exactly who is responsible and their childish investigations lead them into the adult world of sex and death; half of them terrified, the other half fascinated. But for everyone, these seven days of summer will shape the rest of their lives.
A relentless, heart-stopping page turner, West’s tale draws you in from the start and doesn’t let you take a breath until the final page.

I love a good murder mystery, and I hit jackpot when I settled down with this one! This book takes place in Limerick, Ireland and was a page turner from the first chapter. The Irish slang the author uses took some getting used to, but I got the hang of it and felt like I was transported to Ireland in no time. Video posted at the bottom of review about how to pronounce the slang, featuring West.

I really connected with the characters and their experiences they lived. The story was brilliantly narrated by a young Richie, and  it was quite intersting to read through the mind of an 11 year-old-boy.  Its hard to believe the story takes place in such a short time period, it felt as though I had been with these characters so much longer. Some of the characters I loved, some I hated (don’t want to give away any spoliers). West did a tasteful job transistioning from the dark and tragic to the feel of a first time love with a bittersweet ending. The “who done it” is a big surprise, didn’t see it coming and had to immediately re read once I was finished!
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for the “punch you in the gut at the very end of the book” feeling in a Murder Mystery. I look forward to read more of West’s books!

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Video of how to pronounce slang

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