Monday, August 21, 2017

Review: Cold Summer – Gwen Cole

Cold Summer – Gwen Cole

Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.

Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II. 
Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past. 
When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves. 
But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

Review: I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book because the main character’s name is Kale. Kale. Like that icky faux lettuce your mom tells you to eat.

But, this Kale can time-travel, and I can’t pass up a time-travel story. So, here we are. Reading about Kale.

Harper and Kale were best friends before they lost touch. They reconnect after Harper’s mom moves overseas, and Harper decides to move in with her uncle. Kale isn’t like Harper remembers. He’s quiet, distant, and sometimes disappears for days. Harper eventually discovers that Kale is a time-traveler. When he disappears from the present, he becomes a sniper in WWII. Curious, Harper Googles Kale’s name and learns that he dies during the war. Can Kale figure out how to thwart his own death?

“Sometimes when you go through things, you bottle them up inside and try to act like everything is fine. Because you want to forget they ever happened. But you have to trust me when I say that doesn't work. In order for you to move on, you have to let them out.” – Cold Summer

First, let’s take a moment to appreciate the cover. That’s one of the prettiest book covers I’ve seen in a long time. The inside of the book is beautifully designed, too. (Too bad about the typos. There are quite a few typos.) Still, it’s a stunning book.

The story alternates points-of-view with Kale narrating some chapters and Harper narrating others. This keeps the pace moving quickly and builds suspense. Kale is trying to hide his time-traveling secret; Harper is trying to uncover it. They’re both romantically interested in each other, but they’re rarely on the same page with their relationship. I think this is realistic for a teenage romance. They care about each other. They’re just not the best at communicating their feelings.

I like both narrators, which is unusual for me. They’re sweet kids who’ve had difficult lives. I didn’t even mind their romance (which is also unusual for me). I was hoping that they’d get past their problems so they could be together. I was thrilled when they finally (FINALLY!) started communicating. Kale has mental health problems, but Harper is understanding and does her best to help him when he struggles.

“Some people fight through it, and some people choose not to by ignoring it. It's up to them to get through it, and we can only support and love them.” – Cold Summer

I think I’m predisposed to love time-travel stories. I love contemporary fiction, and I love historical fiction, so time-travel gives me the best of both worlds. The WWII parts of the book are intense, but I wish they had been better developed. I wanted to know more about how time travel works. I wanted to know more about Kale’s soldier friends. I wanted to know more about everything. There just isn’t enough time travel in the book for me.

There is plenty of angst, though. Most of it is pointless angst that could have been solved with a few conversations. Honestly, it got on my nerves. All this avoiding each other, and being silent, and running away, and characters feeling sorry for themselves. It probably takes a ton of mental energy for the characters to keep this up. Why couldn’t they just talk about their problems? Talking would be so much easier than angsting. (Angsting is totally a word. Not something I made up. I swear.)

Neither of the kids gets along with their families (mostly because they refuse to talk to their families). It was too much family angst for me. I especially got annoyed at Kale’s relationship with his father. Kale’s father doesn’t believe that Kale is a time-traveler. He thinks Kale is a lazy kid who likes to run away. Kale can solve this argument by disappearing in front of his father, but he refuses to do it because he’s stubborn. Just . . . why? This argument causes nonstop drama, and it’s such an easy argument to solve. Why don’t you want to solve your problems, Kale?

Overall, I enjoyed Cold Summer, but I would have liked it more if it had been longer and less angsty. There is a lot of stuff happening in this story. More pages would have given the author the space necessary to flesh out all the characters, events, and world-building. But, if you like time-travel stories, this is a pretty good one. I recommend it.


  1. I laughed out loud when I saw the kale picture! Love your review :D

  2. I also found the Kale photo hilarious and loved your review. You write with such humor--it drips with sarcasm sometimes and I enjoy that. I don't think i could name one of my characters Kale...maybe Rutabaga....

    1. Yeah . . . I may have spent the whole book picturing the main character as a bundle of icky lettuce . . .

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. I would rather read about a character named Kale than eat it. Just saying. I like a good time travel story and this sounds like one worth picking up. I will have to keep an eye out for it. Great review!

  4. I love this cover too. I kind of like Kale lol. Still weird for a character name though. I love time travel and WWII books so I have to add this one. Great review!

  5. When I was a kid, my friend had a dog named Kale. I had no idea what it meant. Guess they were living in 2017 while the rest of us were stuck in 1977.

    The book sounds pretty good overall, but it's always frustrating when it feels like tension is created artificially by characters keeping needless secrets from each other.

  6. That cover is indeed gorgeous. I'm sad it didn't balance the different elements of the plot better, because it's got one of the most original plots I've read about in a long time

  7. I have this one so I was curious to know what you'd think of it. I am glad to hear both perspectives are really well written and done. A shame about some of the angst though, especially as the book could have used less. I haven't tried kale before, actually?