Summer’s Second by Jeff Billington

Summer’s Second by Jeff Billington
Publisher: NineStar Press
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), LGBTQ, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Asher Brock’s last summer of youth is far from ideal. His hopes for the future, including an escape from his constricting Ozark Mountains hometown, seem increasingly fragile as he faces hurdles of poverty and abuse, all while coming to terms with being gay. Raised by an alcoholic single mother, he clings to his noted intelligence as an escape to a better life. But it will take more than brains—namely, strength of character and aspiration—for him to navigate the months leading to his senior year of high school.

The pregnancy of his recent girlfriend, the heightened aggression of his long-time bully, and the increasing presence of his long-absent father create a season of turmoil, spurring unease and self-doubt. But with support from family and friends, an opportunity for love, and the shedding of generations of secrets, Asher sees beyond preordained fate and starts to realize the opportunities in his grasp.

Creating a better life is possible, but getting there won’t be easy.

Asher was a well-developed and memorable protagonist who knew the odds were stacked against him. I empathized with the many struggles he was dealing with and cheered him on as he did everything he could to break out of his dysfunctional childhood and create a better life for himself. He’d been forced to take on adult responsibilities at a young age, so I yearned for him to finally have a chance to enjoy being a teenager and relax a little.

This book did an excellent job of showcasing the positive and negative aspects of living in a small town. Asher was lucky to have several people who knew about his rough home life and quietly made sure he had enough food to eat and new, clean clothes to wear when his mother didn’t provide them. There is definitely something to be said for people who solve problems like these without making a fuss about it. On the other hand, Asher was also the target of gossip and bullying in part because it’s difficult to keep secrets in such a tiny and tight-knit community. Anything that happens to anyone in small towns like this one is bound to be revealed to everyone sooner or later, and that isn’t always necessarily a good or safe thing.

I adored the hopeful but realistic ending. Without giving away spoilers, it was nice to see the main character resolve the conflicts that could be fixed before the final scene while also acknowledging that some problems are too big to wrap up in the year or so when this took place. There was lots of room left for a sequel if the author ever decides to grace us with one, but I was also satisfied with how it all ended. Asher’s personal development gave me a lot of hope for his future.

Summer’s Second was delightful.

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