Don't Look Back/You Can Never Look Back
In 1979, a massive tornado devastates Wichita Falls, Texas. Four years later, Todd Willis awakens from a sleeping coma with strange new abilities and finds a new set of friends. In 2008, the boys' actions from the summer of 1983 come home to roost in strange and horrifying ways.
The new novel by Richard Cox shares its DNA with some pretty powerful pop culture touchstones: Stand By Me, It, The Goonies and, most recently, Stranger Things. My emphasis here is on share, because Cox claims a very unique neighborhood all for himself.
A group of teenage friends come of age in a town still recovering from a natural disaster that left far more than property damage in its wake. Each character is drawn from a rich archetype - there's the jock, the aspiring writer, the tagalong and, of course, the girl they all adore.
The trick in writing about a specific point in the recent past is getting the details right. If you're too vague, it doesn't come off as truthful. I lived through the summer of 1983 and Cox gets the details right. All of them.
The Boys of Summer is a smart, often scary, trip back into the darkness of Middle America in the Reagan years. With Don Henley's time-displaced song serving as the films eerie soundtrack, The Boys of Summer mines familiar territory with a voice all its own.
Telling a story across two time periods can be challenging. Cox handles it with no problem. His 1983 and 2005 are equally well drawn as are the older and younger iterations of his characters.
As I was reading The Boys of Summer, I kept thinking of this line from Stand By Me:
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.
The Boys of Summer's greatest strength is capturing that golden moment between childhood and the teenage years when anything seems possible.
If you're jonesing while you wait for Season 2 of Stranger Things, give The Boys of Summer a read. You'll be glad you did.
The Boys of Summer is available now from Night Shade Books.