The Drowning Summer / Christine Lynn Herman / Book Review


Nobody talks about the Drowning Summer, especially not Mina and Evelyn. That was the summer three teenagers were found murdered, sand dollars placed over their eyes in a ritual display. That was the summer Evelyn's dad was brought in for questioning. That was the summer Mina fell sick after a midnight deal with a ghost that never should have happened. That was the summer a sand dollar appeared on Mina's wrist, and she swore she had summoned the ghost all alone. She swore she would never do it again.

Mina and Evelyn haven't spoken since.

But the spirits of the Drowning Summer are growing restless. Their voices are louder than ever before, and even if her mom doesn't want Mina to become a full medium, the family business needs her. When Mina steps into the surf for her first summoning, however, the sand dollar from six years ago appears on her wrist once again--right at the moment Evelyn summons a spirit herself, all alone in her bedroom. These two former friends are pulled together again, the only ones who know what really happened that night six years ago. They're desperate to undo what they did--before it's too late.



This book was just... not as good as I thought it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed All of Us Villains, and I had such high hopes here! Don't get me wrong. It's still a good book. It just didn't suck me in like I had hoped. One of the downfalls of reading a new work by an author you've previously enjoyed so much is high expectations that might not be met quite as well the second time around.


Atmospheric Waves One of the things that really sets this spooky ghost story apart from other medium tales is its atmospheric and all-encompassing setting. The unsettled spirits of the ocean cry out with the waves. The power of the moon plays with the tide and the minds of the mediums. Blood and candles mingle with saltwater and ocean spray. Murder victims come with sand dollar eyes and barnacled fingers. It's all very creepy, and it creates a perfectly (unwholesome) beachy vibe.

Bi-Awareness In a culture of bi-erasure, it is nice to have not just one but two bisexual girls represented in this text--and to have at least one of them date a boy as well as fall for the sapphic love interest. While Evelyn might break up with her boyfriend, it has nothing to do with her interest in women, and so that's nice, too.

Ecological Undercurrent It only makes sense that rising sea levels would affect tidal ghosts, doesn't it? The ecology of marine life, tidal pools, and the ghostly denizens therein all feel the impact of environmental change, as is only natural. The chemical waste from a now-defunct factory may in fact be pivotal. It makes sense that a beachy read would take stock of the actual beach and its residents, human and otherwise, and I so appreciate that this book does take into account the environmental pressures these regions are facing today.


I don't really enjoy plots that revolve around secret-keeping as a way to create dramatic tension. Here, the omission of truth is a primary leading force behind just about everything, and I just didn't feel a compelling enough reason why this had to be. Why would Mina's mother keep everything from her? Why so many secrets? There seemed to be no particular reason behind this secret-keeping aside from dramatic emphasis. And I just don't like that. Secret-Keeping

The external trappings of these girls--their lives, interests, hobbies, familial relationships--might be different, but their narrative voices aren't. I found myself getting confused, because the girls acted and reacted so similarly. The narrative was a little choppy in this regard. Nothing was the same between these girls on the outside, so they should have been easily distinguished. And yet, they weren't. Which is unfortunate. Interchangeable MCs

This fantasy book leans a bit too much on the weight of the words it uses. By this, I mean Herman uses words we already know and understand to convey important concepts in her world without taking the time to really explain those concepts herself--that is, without digging in and doing the worldbuilding. "Curse," "exorcism," and similarly loaded words are tossed around like we know exactly what they mean, and to an extent, we do. But these words don't get fully defined in-world. This felt like too much of a shortcut. I had an idea of what these words would mean but not the precise meaning--and the impact of the world and its consequences get, therefore, a little bit lost. Weight of Words



Those looking for another ghostly tale after Aiden Thomas's Cemetery Boys will appreciate these new teenage mediums. Those who like a bit of dark, enemies-to-lovers romance like in Julia Ember's Ruinsong will like these mismatched love interests.


Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date: April 19, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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