It’s a sweltering Houston summer in 1996, and Benjamin Bentley may or may not have been spying on the attractive Tim Wyman for the past few weeks. He seems like the perfect guy, an athlete with a hot body, popular at school, generous parents, what’s not to love? But when Ben’s crush brings them face-to-face, he learns that things aren’t always as they seem. Over the next ten years, Ben and Tim continue to grow and change, sometimes together, sometimes apart, but all the while learning more about what it means to be in love.
Something Like Summer feels like the quintessential gay coming of age romance to me. Even though it was only published in 2011, for some reason it seems like it’s been around forever. Maybe it’s the ‘90s setting or the long time period over which the story takes place, or maybe it’s because the book has grown into a series a of eleven(!) over the last decade. But whatever the reason, that reputation isn’t entirely unwarranted. There’s something timeless about the relationships between Ben, Tim, and Jace. It doesn’t have any of the exciting or fantastic plots that garnish many popular romances (no detectives or werewolves), and there is no love at first sight. It’s just a story of boy meets boy, and of boys growing up, and it feels like a treat to read something so… normal.
That’s not to say it’s a perfect novel of course. Tim in particular can be difficult to like at times (though this is more of a personal opinion than a criticism), but this is somewhat alleviated by the second book, Something Like Winter, which tells the story from Tim’s perspective and makes him a more sympathetic character. I also think that Bell at times takes liberties with his narrative in order to sidestep some difficult issues, which makes some events in the story a bit hard to believe. The three other books in the quartet are all enjoyable, especially if you liked the first one, though every character’s relationships feel identical, which is a little bit weird to me. But none these points detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book, and I definitely recommend giving it a read.