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Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers by…
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Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers

by Brent Runyon

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I enjoyed this episodic novel, but it didn't leave me breathless. The writing is engrossing, the protagonist fairly believable but not compelling, and the plot is labored in places but amusing. I enjoyed it but didn't love it. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
I originally reviewed this book on my blog - The Cosy Dragon. For more recent reviews by me, please hop over there.

This is a novel of 4 summers, describing Luke's life from 14 to 16 years, just in the summers he spends at his parents beach house. Runyon shows great control and understanding of the teenage mind, and it is as if you are stepping literally between the summers.



I won't waste your time with a synopsis, I'm sure you can find plenty of better ones on the internet. Basically, Luke spends every summer with his parents by a lake. Their neighbours come and go, but there are always some of the same feelings for Luke. Luke must change with his surroundings or be changed by them.

The thing that stood out most for me was not the growing attraction of Luke towards girls (which is there, and in some places kind of explicitly described), but how he seems to always hurt himself. It is striking that in the last summer of this book, he is able to save someone else, and this marks the turning point of his character. Finally he is growing up, and will get to be a respectable adult. 16 years seems a little late for this to me, when I think of my partner, but then I remember the maturity levels of my highschool years and I think that the males encapsulated in this book are remarkably well described.

The pace is fast, and this makes me feel that this is an ideal book for teens, particularly males. Runyon again produces a novel that makes you feel close to the protagonist. It's amazing how he can get inside Luke's mind. If I didn't know better, I would have said he was writing each section from a diary of his own thoughts! The progression of the character is amazing.

While the novel is somewhat disappointing if you were looking for the depth of feeling that is present in Runyon's semi-autobiography 'The Burn Journals', it's perfectly acceptable as a novel in its own right. It is an easy read. It doesn't really feel complete, and I feel myself longing to know more, but I know that that is unlikely to happen.

Runyon is a great author for boys who might be afraid of romancy type books. That's not to say it isn't suitable for teenage girls, but they are less likely to sympathize with Luke. Luke is about as typical teenage male as you can get. I have recommended it to mothers who have sons that hate fantasy. It's angsty, but not too confronting.

Please note that on the image I have included there is a giant white blob. But that's not there on the book's cover in real life. It's a nice simple cover, which I really thought suited the book, and it fits in with the rest of his books, which I will get to reviewing soon! ( )
  Rosemarie.Herbert | Feb 26, 2013 |
The subtitle is "a novel in four summers." Luke and his family return each year to their cabin on the lake. Well-written, with subtle changes in Luke's attitudes and concerns as he matures. But it is more like an extended writing exercise than a narrative, and will appeal to a special reader. ( )
  mjsbooks | Nov 23, 2010 |
- amazon descrip: The cottage on the lake is always the same, but Luke is changing. At thirteen he’s excited. At fourteen he’s cool. At fifteen he’s pissed off. At sixteen he’s in love.

Through four summers’ worth of trips to the emergency room, campfires and house fires, parties and feuds with neighbors, Luke is doing his best to navigate life. He makes discoveries, makes mistakes, freaks out, and comes to see things in a new light.

Brent Runyon has crafted a remarkable portrait of a boy at four distinct points in his life and literally shows us his coming of age. It’s a story that explores what is ever-changing and what is timeless, and how we are shaped by both the people and places we love. ( )
  karilibrary | Jul 8, 2010 |
Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for TeensReadToo.com

Luke's parents own a cottage by the lake, and his family has been coming there for two weeks every summer ever since they moved out of the area.

When Luke is 13, he's extremely excited to be back at his most favorite place in the world. Running over the rocks on their beach, climbing the creek up to the waterfall, and fishing in the pond by the dairy farm... Each of these experiences holds a memory for him, but none seem to be as fun as they used to be.

The following year, he's not feeling quite as excited. Their new neighbor is causing a lot of problems, but, as a result, Luke's family finally befriends the conservative, rich family that lives next door. However, things get weird as Luke tries to navigate his feelings about the attractive girlfriend of the family's oldest son.

The next year, when Luke is 15, their issues with the bad neighbor escalate, and Luke has his best friend, Steve, in tow. Steve doesn't quite seem to get Luke's feelings about the lake and their experiences at the cottage, however, so that results in another weird summer.

When Luke is 16, he has no idea why he decided to come to the lake this year. His girlfriend is at theater camp, and Luke spends most of his time thinking about her and wishing she were there. Even when tensions rise among the neighbors and result in a near tragedy and yet another emergency room trip for Luke, he finds that he must come to grips with the ever-changing nature of time.

This "novel in four summers" took my breath away with its elegantly tailored narration and down-to-earth voice, which shifts slightly throughout to reflect Luke's age. A story such as this, I believe, will bring a wave of nostalgia to even the most jaded teen reader, as the main character's struggle with his own cynicism and changing perceptions come across as very real and true. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 13, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375844465, Hardcover)

The cottage on the lake is always the same, but Luke is changing. At thirteen he’s excited. At fourteen he’s cool. At fifteen he’s pissed off. At sixteen he’s in love.

Through four summers’ worth of trips to the emergency room, campfires and house fires, parties and feuds with neighbors, Luke is doing his best to navigate life. He makes discoveries, makes mistakes, freaks out, and comes to see things in a new light.

Brent Runyon has crafted a remarkable portrait of a boy at four distinct points in his life and literally shows us his coming of age. It’s a story that explores what is ever-changing and what is timeless, and how we are shaped by both the people and places we love.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:43 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

During the summer vacations of his thirteenth through his sixteenth year at the family's lake cottage, Luke realizes that although some things stay the same over the years that many more change.

» see all 2 descriptions

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