Review: Antoinette J. Houston – Red Summer

Red Summer
Antoinette J. Houston
Red, or Rita, is just beginning to catch on fire. Not in the way that Katniss does, but in the real sense of the word – Rita makes flames part of explosive life.
The idea of the mutant abilities was interesting, and quite unique from other novels I have read. Taking the blood of someone unique, and then finding the genetic basis of it – right up my alley. I’m not surprised it only worked on children. Did I mention that’s the field of my PhD?
Each of the main characters has those special powers, and it’s not immediately obvious which they have. Rita manifests first, and refuses to talk about it. She’s a ‘raging black woman’, which felt like it fell into a stereotype rather than Rita having her own personality.
Jason seems like a danger – I don’t know why they didn’t just kill him. I mean, it’s a bit inhumane, but when you get someone who can break everything in one fell go from within a cell, it’s just sensible!
I struggled to work out what role Thomas played. Only his memories are useful to the teenagers, and I think they could have survived without that. He seemed to be aimed at providing a ‘normal’ perspective, and still he was the one who was hurt the most often, just for being himself.
I don’t think that the blurb on the novel does justice. I didn’t jump into it because I couldn’t understand what the endless summer would be. I thought maybe I would see the same scene playing out over and over – but instead I got some powerful action scenes with tangible emotions.
Did I mention that the cover is pretty awesome? It’s very simple, but if you actually just look at it, it gives a strong hint for what is to happen. A match burning the wrong way…
What put me off this novel, and what might have changed since I read this early ARC, is some of the prose. The writing didn’t feel ‘tight’ to me, in the way that some novels are. The dialogue could have gone with a little more finess, because it often felt like the words were superfluous. Something else that bothered me were the changes in tempo.
I’m willing to cut this novel some slack, since when the author supplied it to me, she explained that this copy hadn’t been edited. I’m interested to see whether the next novel has evolved – and I think I’d consider reading it just to see what happens with the mutant powers. Are more of them going to appear? Are their children going to be ‘monsters’?

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