Cold Summer – Gwen Cole – Sky Pony Press – Published 2 May 2017
Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.
Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.
When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.
But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.
The premise for Cold Summer sounded amazing. A time traveller unable to control his travelling who experiences PTSD from his time spent fighting in World War II, coupled with a girl-next-door romance. Unfortunately the execution left a lot to be desired.
I’m sad to be giving this book such a low rating – surely it deserves an extra star just for the cover – but unfortunately it was the writing style, among other things, that I didn’t like about this book.
It’s a long book but it felt like nothing actually happened. There is a bit of action when Kale travels back to World War II, but otherwise it is mainly characters discussing Kale’s situation or Kale bemoaning his lot in life. In the summary, Harper discovers a record of Kale’s life in the past but this doesn’t happen right until the very end of the book. I also felt the story was anticlimactic. It had so much promise, was such a great idea, but I felt it was never developed into something amazing. So much of this book felt convenient or contrived. There are no explanations for why Kale can time travel, no exploration for deeper meaning about it all. Everything that might raise questions or challenges is simply brushed away or too easily resolved.
While the characters talk about Kale’s time travelling and try to convince him it is in his control, really nothing in this story is controlled by the characters. They are just along for the ride and are lucky it conveniently works out as it does. I did like how Kale’s absences from his normal time were explained and the impact it had on his life. It was a fantastic idea to incorporate PTSD. Time travelling has serious consequences for Kale. However, I though Harper really fell flat as a character. The trauma she felt over her broken relationship with her mother wasn’t conveyed through the writing and I thought the way this was (un)resolved at the end was ridiculous. I also felt that the romance was too quick and shallow.
It seems the more I write in this review, the more with which I find fault. Perhaps the story itself was not as bad as I’m making it seem, but unfortunately it wasn’t a book I enjoyed.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: War, time travel, romance. PTSD.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, f***, sh** . War violence, death and injury.
Published: 2 May 2017 by Sky Pony Press.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 256 pages.