I will admit that I have had author Julian Winters on a list of authors to check out one day, but have never read anything of his before now. The Summer of Everything is my Reading Challenge Month choice for New-to-Me Author Week and I couldn’t be happier. This novel is such a journey—one that questions everything a person on the cusp of great change could ever question and worry over. Poor Wes! His life is complicated, not only by his own indecision and fear about Nico, the best friend he has had a crush on since forever, but also college looming in two months, his workplace threatening to close down, and the pretty terrible relationship with his only sibling, his older brother, Leo. It’s all threatening to crash down on top of Wes and he is just not prepared.
Despite his near manic list making, Wes is no closer to figuring out a good time to tell Nico his feelings for him. Then there’s his father constantly texting him suggestions for a major; Wes has no clue as to what he wants his future to look like. He has no five-year plan like most of his friends and his fear that somehow any decision he makes will be the wrong one keeps him from making any. But it’s the fight to keep the bookstore, Once Upon a Book, open that occupies his every thought that isn’t fixed on Nico. But when Wes learns devastating news that will most certainly impact the future of the store, he is just done. Lost, depressed, and just over it all.
This story is so complex. This is an eighteen-year-old new adult who feels like anything but that. With a brother who seems to have everything together and is about to get married and attend law school, the pressure Wes feels to “man up” and plot his own path is immense. I applaud this novel for being so accessible. For anyone who faces a decision or crisis that looms like a bad harbinger in the wings, this story knows how you feel and where you live. For anyone who has ever crushed on their best friend and fears admitting it will ruin the wonderful friendship they already have with that person, this book has your number, in spades.
Wes is an “everyman,” yet still manages to be uniquely created to be interesting and memorable. The side cast of friends goes across the LGTBQIA spectrum and does so with ease; these characters are not some cliché or stock copy, but real and human with foibles, hopes, and dreams. I fell in love with this little group. I cried near the end of this novel when life dealt a huge blow to Wes and he realized while one dream might be unattainable, there is still time to keep moving to the next. I rejoiced at the happy for now ending—so realistic because these are college students we are talking about and we all know how life changes over those years for most of us.
One thing is certain, this will not be the last time I reach for a Julian Winters novel. With rich and descriptive prose, moving life changes, and clever yet thoughtful dialogue, the author tracks the summer between high school and college for a guy who has no idea what might come next or even if he wants it to anyway. Wes grows up and discovers real love, real loss, and the beginning of a new path and it is marvelous to read. I highly recommend The Summer of Everything to you.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of FIVE $20 JMS Books bookstore gift cards (you can see the full event prize list here)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here.