Our Last Summer, Matthew J. Metzger
Publisher: Queerteen Press
Genre: YA, LGBT (G)
Length: 182 pages
“If they do not move soon, they will drown.”
At 16 Ryan’s parents still don’t trust him to stay home-alone during the summer, so he has a choice, stay and work at his mother’s law practice or, the less boring choice, stay with his grandmother in the sleepy, predominately retiree-filled village of Appington. Wisely Ryan chooses the latter.
Ryan has spent almost every summer he can remember the same way, exploring the village and it’s outskirts, helping Nan out with her garden and being completely bored because there’s no-one even remotely close to his age in this village. A couple of days in Ryan notices a young lad around in school uniform, signifying that this summer might be different. He eventually meets Alex, the same age as him but somewhat reclusive.
An ‘almost friendship’ develops between these two, for the first four weeks of summer they don’t even meet outside of church. Slowly they spend more time together, through sheer boredom more than anything else, but still Alex does not really talk, only answering Ryan’s questions half the time; and even then they’re usually cryptic.
One clear feature Ryan does notice is that Alex will quite often have a split lip, black eye or bruised cheek. One day while they work on his Nan’s garden Ryan observes a severe looking bruise on Alex’s abdomen. Concerned, he pesters Alex about it until he learns that it was his father kicking him while drunk, explaining all the other bruises as products of parental abuse. Alex cannot or will not do anything about this situation despite Ryan’s misgivings.
Before he knows it, summer is over and Ryan leaves Alex in Appington while he heads back to normal life. The rest of the story follows with Ryan returning each summer, delving more into Alex’s background every time and further developing their friendship.
Summer Love (A.K.A. What Drew Josh In)
The situation surrounding Alex is complicated. Ryan notices that his new acquaintance is ‘different’ and more withdrawn from life, to the point of coming across as a very reclusive person. As Ryan delves more and more into his story, however, we get to discover why Alex is the way he is, more importantly why his family is so incredibly dysfunctional.
The abuse is dealt with in a very good way for a young adult book with the impact on younger people and how the world reacts examined. Alex wants to keep his family together for reasons that Ryan, nor the reader, could probably understand. In this way he is flawed, which makes him so much more interesting and foreign, but still easy to relate to. Children and teenagers living in abusive homes should not have to go through the hardships that they do and hopefully this book can help to raise awareness of these issue in the real world, which unfortunately still exists.
Change Through the Years
It is rare for books of this length to be successfully set over such a long period (about 28 months) and still retain such great story flow. This has been achieved without the reader feeling as if great chunks of time are skipped over without any explanation just to get to the meat of the story. Time does speed up through the other seasons, but we can still see the changes in Ryan as his life develops over his final two years of high school.
With Ryan coming to accept his sexuality over time and realising his love and want to devote himself to Alex, we see his journey from bored teenager to well-formed young man. This change is wonderful to witness and is part of the reason this book has received such a high rating.
The Picture of Two Men Holding Hands on the Beach (A.K.A. Grrrrr…)
I do not blame the author for this, more than likely it was the publishers work. This book is set in the countryside of England with brief interludes in bigger cities like Manchester and Newcastle. Never and I mean NEVER do the characters go anywhere like a beach and where could there possibly be a beach like that in England for that matter.
To be honest I didn’t even notice this until I started writing this review so it didn’t draw me out from the story at all. It was just really annoying looking back on it after reading this great book to see how far it had been let down in terms of its cover.
“Three twenty-two in the afternoon on a Friday afternoon…..
This is part of the opening line of Our Last Summer which didn’t start me off well.
Our Last Summer has its share of such discrepancies, not to the point of bursting, but enough that you’ll occasionally have to re-read sentences or paragraphs to make sense of it. While it does not take you out of the story entirely, it does stand out. A final edit could have, like so many books before it, given that last layer of polish to the book which would have made it truly great.
Our Last Summer is a book that may polarise a few people due to the content as well as the language at the beginning. The first chapter shows a young man in a somewhat homophobic city setting escaping to the country where he finds himself in the Summer (noun,) a world different and seemingly more care free than any other where he discovers himself and starts to care for another, becoming a wonderful young adult in the process. Just a simple thing, but, I would like to say it is nice reading a book with the temperature in Celsius, I really have no idea what you’re going on about if you give me something in Fahrenheit.This book is truly deserving of it’s rating with only minor issues hindering it’s score. I definitely recommend that others read this.
“There is nothing more to say, and the grey dawn turns to a blue September day without further sound. Autumn breaks.”