Genre: Coming of Age
Publisher: Post Mortem Press
Publication Date: 22nd July 2016
REVIEWED BY CHAD
A copy of Jedi Summer: With the Magnetic Kid was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author, John Boden, in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is published by Post Mortem Press.
There are some books that are so steeped in a certain period of time, if the reader falls within a certain age range it becomes impossible to not love the book. The story almost becomes secondary, like a restaurant that feels so comfortable and familiar that food can’t help but taste perfect there.
This is going to make me sound mental for a second so please bear with me. I’ve always been in love with the smell of a place that’s special to me. The two examples I can think of would be my grandparents’ houses. I could have walked into either one, blindfolded and immediately know where I was. And that smell, the weight of the very air around me becomes so familiar that sometimes I can catch a random whiff of something and I’m immediately back in that kitchen. Or that dining room. Or that basement.
That intimate familiarity is exactly what I felt when I read Jedi Summer. I think I’m a tiny bit younger than John, as the tip-over from the eighties into the nineties was more the big days of my childhood. Still, all you have to do is say the words “mixed tape” and you can get a smile out of me. It instantly brings me back to road trips and vacations, often to one of those same two houses I mentioned earlier. Nowadays I think kids are spoiled with how easy it is to transport their media. All you need anymore, is a phone or a tablet. Back then, you had to earn it. I’m talking an entire suitcase, just for your books and cassettes and CD’s.
Reading Jedi Summer was like coming home.
The book is somewhat non-traditional in its structure as there isn’t really an overarching narrative thread, save for the repeated references to their excitement over the upcoming Star Wars film. The voice of the main character is so well written and articulated that I almost felt at times that I was reading descriptions of my own childhood.
I remember well the summer in which this book is largely set. I remember seeing Return of The Jedi in the theater, my first Star Wars theatrical experience. Going out to the movies was way bigger of a deal than it is now. Anymore, you have tons of options in terms of how you can ingest a movie if you don’t see it on the big screen. Back then, going to a movie was a lot like going to the theater, as in the theater where you would see plays and musicals. These were the days of VHS rentals, but VCR’s were so expensive, you’d have to rent them along with the movies. This was a time when buying black & white was still the affordable option for televisions.
Going out to the movies was a big deal.
And as such, I think it’s so appropriate that so much of this story is refracted through that one essential event and why the subject of Return of The Jedi keeps coming up. Because this was a time and an age when going to see a movie like that would be the event of the summer. We have become a culture of disposable entertainment. Then, going to the movies was real. It was your chance to reach out and brush fingertips with magic, however fleeting. So, for me, the specifics of the events in this book become almost secondary to the anticipation of the experience of that movie.
As I said before, the structure of this narrative is unique. It’s almost a chain of disparate vignettes involving the experiences of that summer, many of which are fairly dark in their nature. Why then, do I come out of this book feeling mostly the tug of nostalgia?
Because movies were magic.
Childhood was magic.
And more importantly, for as negative and dark and frightening as the world got, as this book did, we manage to hold on to that magic from childhood. I don’t remember Reagan getting shot. But I do remember riding my bike to Target to get Castlevania for my Nintendo. I can recall the Challenger shuttle exploding but what I’ve really held on to from childhood is staying up late in hotel rooms, sneaking down to the swimming pool and racing for the last slice of pizza. I don’t really remember the Cold War, save for the fact that it happened. But I remember sitting in that theater, watching that green and red lightsabre blades as they clashed.
Our childhood makes up one of the bulwarks of our existence. It’s the keeper of all the magic and the wonder and the excitement for a world that we were only starting to understand. I found this book to be a great reminder of that. Childhood is about making memories so strong that sometimes all it takes is a sound or a song, a taste or a smell.
Or a book.
All it takes is that one catalyst and it all comes back. Because inside all of us, there will always be the chance for at least one more Jedi Summer.
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1983: A boy and his little brother wander through a loosely stitched summer. A summer full of sun and surrealism, Lessons of loss and love. Of growing up and figuring it out. Nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania is a small town, it’s not like the others. Things are strange there- people die but hang around, pets too. Everyone knows your name and sometimes, a thing as simple as a movie coming to the local theatre, is all it takes to keep you going.
John lives a stone’s throw from Three Mile Island with his wonderful wife and sons.
A baker by day, he spends his off time writing or working on Shock Totem. He likes Diet Pepsi and horseradish cheese, speaking about himself in third person and sports ferocious sideburns.
While his output as a writer is fairly small, it has a bit of a reputation for being unique. His work has appeared in Shock Totem, Splatterpunk, Blight Digest and Lamplight as well as the following anthologies Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen and the Criminally Insane, Once Upon An Apocalypse, Robbed Of Sleep Vol 1, and Borderlands 6.
His not-really-for-children children’s book, Dominoes is a pretty cool thing or, so people say.
His Coming-Of-Age novella, Jedi Summer, is available now.
And for more about John, visit his site, or find him on social media: