Jennifer Wardrip's Reviews > Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers

Surface Tension by Brent Runyon
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Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for

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.
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