Walt Whitman referred to a "Mad, naked, Summer Night!" In the pages of Boys of Summer, acclaimed editor Steve Berman's latest anthology, talented authors and fresh voices reveal the allure and excitement of the season for gay teens. June always promises romance. July entices with its raw heat, and August offers a languid fire that will burn out before autumn's approach. These are stories of young love and adventure, when the sky's ceiling is a bright blue marvel, when another boy's laughter at the beach can distract from dull summer jobs.
Last year I read and loved Steve Berman's young adult anthology Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up. This year I knew that as soon as the Boys of Summer anthology released it would be purchased and read by me, particularly since it includes stories by already favorite authors. Boys of Summer is all about the butterflies in the stomach and uncertainties that come along with that first crush or first kiss. Hot summer days, sand, surf, camping grounds, fairs, and summer evenings make the perfect settings for our boys to explore and experience.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Swamp Thing by Ann Zeddies
With Shane's character, Ann Zeddies captures a teenager's longing to belong. It takes someone like Chase, an unlikely and unwanted friend, to show Shane that there are better choices. In this solid read about a geek and a gay boy who longs to belong, Chase certainly shows Shane that belonging doesn't always mean being part of the popular crowd. I love the summer atmosphere and the swamp setting, the excellent teenage characterization, and the ending in this story.
Get Brenda Foxworthy by Shawn Syms
In Syms' dark(ish) tale, his characters Dean, Preet and Rickie are on their way to fight back against mean girl Brenda Foxworthy who bullies through psychological abuse and underhanded manipulation. There's a violent edge to this solid story by Syms that I found provocative and one that fits with the YA LGBT theme. I like that it lends a different perspective to this anthology, and that it also gives Dean hope for change at the end.
Cave Canem by Dia Pannes
This is a good story that features Wyatt, a summer volunteer at a local pet rescue. It has dogs, dog fighting, a hot bad boy, and rescuing as a theme. The rescuing applies to both the dogs and the bad boy. There's a definite summer atmosphere, as well as that "I'm crushing on you" trope that I enjoy. The ending is ambiguous and left to the reader's imagination.
Breakwater in the Summer Dark by L Lark
L Lark features two great characters and friends in Cody and Harry. There's a history of friendship and an awkward kiss from the previous summer between them, and this year that awkwardness is compounded by the weird monster in the lake. Lark weaves a rather clever story where he combines the fear of coming out with first love, shy moments, and youthful lust. Both of his characters are plagued by different fears that are alleviated only when Cody admits to himself that he cares for Harry. I ended up loving these two boys together, monster and all.
Brass by Marguerite Croft & Christopher Reynaga
I really enjoyed this cute story about an unknown (could be any) boy who has a crush on fellow high school band member Ben. Ben plays the tuba and he plays the trumpet. This short story takes place on a hot 4th of July day as our young man makes up his mind to make a move on Ben. There's heat, a balmy evening, a car, a first kiss, and... ohhhh the possibilities that opened up on that hot summer day!
Summer's Last Stand by Aimee Payne
Aimee Payne concentrates her summer tale on bullies, family, and the all important support that young adults in the LGBT community need. She features Corey as a young man leaving for college and dreaming of leaving the suffocating and homophobic small town behind. Except that he'll also be leaving behind his grandmother, sister Emily, and best friend Lisa. During a summer party he also meets Ritchie, the romantic interest in this story, but homophobic bullies interfere. Corey has to make a decision to run or make a last stand. In this short story, Payne captures the importance of family and friends with the promise of romance.
Most Likely by Steve Berman
Most Likely bears Berman's signature writing style. I love that he sets the story in New Jersey and adds a bit of diversity to this anthology by featuring Roque, a hot Latino boy who has the hots for Gregg, a Jewish boy who turns out to be Roque's friend and big "high school crush." Berman's hints of 'the unexplained,' conjures great summer atmosphere and combines it all with Roque's uncertainty about Gregg's feelings and some jealousy that drives Roque to a passionate pursuit. This is a great read.
Leap by 'Nathan Burgoine
Ohhh, I loved this story! I did! Burgoine's boys of summer experience all the right moments: the uncertainty and butterflies that come from that first crush, the vulnerability and desire experienced during the first kiss, plus real friendship and fear for the future. Leap's setting is a Canadian camping ground where Ryan, Angie and Barb spend their summer holidays catching up, having fun, and conducting the usual lazy summer rituals until Will comes along to make this the one summer Ryan will never forget. Burgoine's Leap is a complete, detailed short story that captures all those "first" moments and hot summer days beautifully, leaving the reader feeling great at the end.
Bark if You Like Bad Boys by Sam Cameron
Sean is a secondary character in Cameron's Mystery of the Tempest: A Fisher Key Adventure, a story I really enjoyed, and I can't tell you how glad I am that he is highlighted in this anthology. There's a gorgeous summer atmosphere to Bark if You Like Bad Boys, the setting is perfect and the reader feels as if he/she is there eating ice cream at the beach. Cameron really captures the growing friendship between Sean, Rob and Andrew, and later on Sean's growing concern as events begin to take a serious turn, and the beauty of that "crush" and first kiss. I love this story.
Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy by Alex Jeffers
Alex Jeffers is a favorite writer and it is no surprise to me that this turned out to be one of my favorite stories. Jeffers combines a contemporary tale with a legend and in the process adds that cultural diversity that I enjoy so much. Luke sales the Aegean seas with his father and stepmother Perla as he lusts for the gorgeous Turkish deckhand, Levent. At night his erotic dreams of Levent progressively intertwine with the tragic legend of Dimuz or Adonis. This is a gorgeous story that transports the reader to the sea and another culture. There's longing, discovery, desire, and passion in this excellent boys of summer story that ends with a surprisingly sweet touch.
Boys of Summer edited by Steve Berman captures and combines those lazy days of summer with the excitement of summer crushes, love and adventures, perfectly. It's a great read for young adults experiencing or hoping to experience these feelings for the first time, or adults who have been there. Remember when? You will if you read it. Enjoy!
Category: LGBT - Young Adult
Publisher/Release Date: Bold Strokes Books/May 8, 2012 - Kindle Ed.
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