Zach Carson is a loyal friend. But is loyalty enough to keep best friends together when one of them sets fire to the rural barn they use as the local hangout? Zach, Jeff Barsell and Arnie Wilson struggle to pick up the pieces when news spreads that a body was discovered in the burnt out shell of the neighbouring home. When the word murder is used by the local police, the stakes grow even higher. When the police start searching for their most likely suspect—none other than Jeff’s older brother, and nemesis, Marty Barsell—the boys decide to join forces and come up with a way to prove his innocence. But just how innocent is Marty Barsell? When Marty admits to being at the scene of the crime, the three friends enlist the help of Zach’s annoying sister, Sherry, as well as the sympathetic town eccentric, Ms. Halverton. But can they keep it together long enough to save Marty, and themselves, from eminent catastrophe? Summer on Fire is the story of friendships, and the lines we are asked to cross in order to keep them.
Summer on Fire
This is a good story about friendship, loyalty, integrity and the lengths some will go to in order to protect those friendships. Zach and his friends Arnie and Jeff are responsible for the fire that burned down the barn but instead of coming clean, they decide to keep quiet about it. When more information about what actually happened surfaces, the boys will quickly discover that keeping secrets is harder than it seems. Who will be the first one to crack?
The situation gets more complicated when Jeff's brother Marty is implicated and the boys realize Jeff may have more to lose than any of them. When the truth comes out, as it always does, the boys will have to decide just how much their friendship is worth. Will they look back on this summer with regret or knowing they made the right choice?
Summer on Fire is a slow burn, a story that takes the time to develop character, to flesh out three very unique personalities in the trio of friends, and the secrets and lies they agree to bury in the ashes of the fire they start in the old dry Henderson barn on the edge of town. They're doing what boys do, they go off and explore, they find somewhere to go and hide, and "hang out."
I liked how the families interacted with one another, surprising me time and again with humor and wit, laughter and tears, and a whole lot of Ms. Halverton, self-proclaimed town eccentric. When the town realizes the barn is burned down, another apparent crime is uncovered. A dead body is found. Suddenly, the looming consequence is too big for the three boys, so they make a pact not to tell, and this secret tests the boundaries of all of their friendships.
SUMMER ON FIRE touches on friendship, loyalty, lying and honesty, owning up to personal responsibility, facing your problems/fears instead of running from them, and not giving up on the seemingly hopeless cause.
When one of the boys sets the barn on fire, it unleashes a chain of events that tests their friendship. They make a pact to keep the incident to themselves. But can they keep it? The secret festers inside them, especially when they discover that a neighbouring home was also set on fire, and its elderly resident found dead inside. After police use the word “murder,” the boys question their silence, and their tight bonds of friendship begin to unravel.
Summer on Fire reminded me of a Stephen King novel in terms of the depth of characterization. The three boys are well-rounded, with strengths as well as flaws, and those flaws are described in harsh detail. Arnie is an overweight misfit who is dependent on his eccentric mother. Jeff is the only sane person in a dysfunctional family that includes an abusive father and a mother whose spirit has been broken. Zach, on the other hand, has the most balanced home life, but he is plagued by his sister Sherry, who is suspicious of the boys’ involvement in the crime. The dialogue is exactly what you would expect for teenage boys, and one of the most memorable secondary characters, Ms. Halverton, has the most colourful speech patterns of all.
If you want to read a coming of age story that explores the themes of friendship, betrayal and redemption, try Summer on Fire.