The Drowning Summer by Christine Lynn Herman

Six summers ago, on Long Island, three people were found murdered on the beach with sand dollars placed over their eyes, but the killer was never caught. This Summer, the dead refuse to stay dead as something Mina and Evelyn did back then comes back to haunt them. Literally.

The lore around Mina’s family and what they do is really neat. They’re a family of mediums, needing salt water to contact the dead and help them move on and help families reach closure. They use scrying tools to help them focus, which is a interesting thread in the story, and the descriptions of the spirits or ghosts in very evocative and eerie. Mina doesn’t have a lot of friends at school, she’s happy to spend time with her mother Stella and wants to be like her. She’s pushing her mother to let her learn how to do the family business, but at the same time, she has a secret from her mother about something that she and Evelyn did to help remove suspicion from Evelyn’s father after the murders.

We also have Evelyn, who is tough and scrappy to Mina’s softer more shy personality. The suspicion that fell on her father after the murders has torn her family apart, and she’s learned to deal with people gossiping about her or believing his guilt by not needing anyone. She also doesn’t have a lot of friends because she doesn’t want to let anyone in. Both of our leads have cut themselves off from others, but for different reasons. In this book, they haven’t spoken in years, and the events of the book bring them back together.

While the book is really a spooky mystery, with the plot slowly piecing together who the killer is, and why the ghosts are returning now, it’s also a romance. Mina and Evelyn were friends, and as they work together to try to fix the mistake they made back then, and to try to solve the mystery as time runs out, they also realise they have feelings for each other. But can either of them open up to another person, after years of telling themselves they don’t need anyone?

The book opens quickly and keeps the pace going throughout, with a lot of spooky, salty, vibes all around. I really liked the seaside location and that in a small town, everyone knows everything and everyone has a long memory. The romance feels balanced and realistic, it doesn’t overpower the story, but adds to the tension. The book takes on themes of climate change, family secrets and dysfunctional families, small towns and identity. The writing style is quite cinematic, and I kept thinking this would make a great horror film. A solid entry in the YA and LGBTQ+ genre.

Read It If: you like a side of spooky with your teen mystery fic. An entertaining read, with a well developed world and a bit of romance as well.

Thank you to the publisher for the copy of this book for review.

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