Samurai Summer is a book that has big ideas yet somehow comes across as being a bit cold and too shortsighted to make the story stick. Characters that should have been believable somehow weren’t and the book left me somewhat disaffected. I think the author was trying for the same dark tone as Let The Right One In but just didn’t have a compelling enough story to make it work.
At a Summer camp in the 1960s, Tommy is once again dealing with the terrible reality of what he goes through every year. There is the mean camp owner, her ‘son with serious issues’, and a cast of very downtrodden low income family campers. Tommy is a bit of loner, a deeply flawed and somewhat broken boy, who deals with life by trying to live up to Samurai ideals. When one of his friends goes missing, Tommy will use those values to try to save her.
Tommy was a tough nut to crack. On the one hand, his dogged determination to live by the Samurai code made him somewhat of an unlikeable and tragically pathetic type of character. But as the story progresses and we learn his history, the fantasy world he has created around himself makes sense. I only wish it made him more interesting and intriguing.
Ironically, while the premise makes this sounds like it has a supernatural twist, the only fantastical elements in the book are Tommy’s Samurai slavishness. The reality of the campers’ situation is clearly dark and each of the kids at the low cost camp are there to be ‘gotten rid of’ by the parents. Where you have parents that don’t care, the kids too often end up as victims.
I wish the book had made more of an impression on me but honestly by the time it finished, I was rather relieved and quickly forgot it. I was never engaged by Tommy or the other characters as I should have been; their tragic histories should have made them far more complex. But everyone at the camp just felt like sheep going to the slaughter while bleating occasionally.
I listened to the Audible version of the book and found the narration to be decent.