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The Drowning Summer

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A gorgeously atmospheric contemporary fantasy by the author of The Devouring Gray and The Deck of Omens.

Six years ago, three Long Island teenagers were murdered—their drowned bodies discovered with sand dollars placed over their eyes. The mystery of the drowning summer was never solved, but as far as the town’s concerned, Evelyn Mackenzie’s father did it. His charges were dropped only because Evelyn summoned a ghost to clear his name. She swore never to call a spirit again. She lied.

For generations, the family of Mina Zanetti, a former friend of Evelyn, has worked as mediums, using the ocean’s power to guide the dead to their final resting place. But as sea levels rise, the ghosts grow more dangerous and Mina has been shut out of the family business. When Evelyn performs another summoning that goes horribly wrong, the two girls must navigate their growing attraction to each other while solving the mystery of who was really behind the drowning summer…before the line between life and death dissolves for good.

Beautifully written and just the right amount witchy, The Drowning Summer is a deliciously eerie story perfect for reading under a full moon.

384 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 19, 2022

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About the author

C.L. Herman

9 books841 followers

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5 stars
101 (16%)
4 stars
228 (36%)
3 stars
229 (37%)
2 stars
49 (7%)
1 star
11 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 146 reviews
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,116 followers
August 12, 2022
This one was ok. It didn’t quite live up to the hype I had in my head based on Herman’s previous books, but I did still enjoy it.

Mina is a trainee medium, however her mums overprotectiveness means that her training isn’t moving forward as quickly as she’d like.

Evelyn was Mina’s best childhood friend. 6 years ago they summoned a ghost to help with something during the Drowning Summer. A summer when 3 teenagers were mysteriously killed and found in a cave by the beach with sand dollars over their eyes.

The killer has never been found, and recently the dead in the town have become more and more restless. Mina and Evelyn worry that their secret may have something to do with it.

Great premise, I just didn’t follow all the different rules regarding ghosts and mediums so at times I was lost. Also would have liked the relationship fleshed out a bit more - I felt like a relationship that only appeared out of shared trauma and proximity rather than a actual connection.
Lush to see a sapphic romance though!

Will definitely still be checking out more from this author as it comes.

All my library holds are arriving at once and I can’t cope!
Equally so excited for this one as I love Christine Lynn Herman’s writing 😃
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,877 followers
April 20, 2022
3.25 Stars. This was an okay read but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I have been really enjoying this resurgence in YA paranormal and horror books, so I was really looking forward to this. Sapphic mediums that are using ghosts to solve a murder mystery, I mean sign me up. Unfortunately, while I did find the read reasonably entertaining, there was nothing that really grabbed me so this falls in just the okay category.

There was a lot of pre-talk going around that this had a Gatsby-vibe, well I didn’t get that at all. I’m human, maybe I missed something, but I didn’t get Gatsby and I started wondering if people were getting this confused with the book, Wild and Wicked Things, that has a Gatsby feel with sapphic witches and also just recently was released. It doesn’t really matter, I just want people to know that you should not go reading this looking for a Gatsby retelling or you might be disappointed.

One of the things I love so much about YA is all the feels. I love the emotional roller coaster most YA books will take you on since everything was so heightened when we were that age. This book had a lot of opportunity for this to happen. You have parents lying, parents accused or murder, and just plenty of ammo to make a super charged book. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen and instead everything felt dulled and more on the surface. When characters were yelling, crying, and upset, I thought, huh. I don’t want to feel numb, instead I wanted to be feeling those emotions too and hopefully grabbing some tissues.

I was happy with the bi rep of the two main characters, and I also thought that their romance was really cute. On the downside, it did seem like because these two were spending time together, that’s why they liked each other. I’m not really big on proximity romances, so I wish Herman would have built their connection more, but I did think their scenes together were sweet and enjoyable.

I’m such a big mystery fan that I was hoping to enjoy that part but I feel very on the fence about it. I thought the reasoning behind the main mystery was not so great and a little convoluted. While I understood what was happening, there were some parts I just didn’t understand why. Also, the big twist, was kind of a head scratcher. I liked that I did not see it coming, but I didn’t see it coming because it felt so out of left field that I don’t think I really believed it so much. There is more I would like to say here but I just can’t for possible spoiler reasons so I’m just going to stop. I just found certain things problematic so it is what it is.

TLDR: I didn’t mind the read, and I found that the book entertained me for a night, but it really is an average read in my opinion. The book has a cool premise, but it just never really takes off. There is a lot of turmoil that the characters go through, but we never experience it as readers which was disappointing. The sapphic romance was cute, but I wish we could have watched a stronger connection form. I’m pretty down the middle with this one. I think if you are a Herman fan that you might enjoy this one, but if you are new to Herman, you might want to start with one of her other books.

A copy was kindly given to me for a review.
Profile Image for booksneedcaffeinetoo.
339 reviews92 followers
Want to read
June 19, 2019

oh this is the best news 💕🌈☺️
Profile Image for theresa.
302 reviews4,372 followers
December 9, 2022
i liked this! though, honestly, as i sit to finally review it four months after finishing i have to say that i don't actually remember much of it. i did enjoy how climate change played into the magic system and Herman's writing was as gorgeously atmospheric as ever, but i found the book underwhelming overall.

I also talk about books here: youtube | instagram | twitter

*eARC received in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley*
Profile Image for Ellie.
578 reviews2,200 followers
Want to read
September 28, 2020
imagine this: me, on a deck lounger with a martini, an extremely smug look on my face, surrounded by the piles of EXCELLENT f/f books coming out in the next two years and the drowning summer in my hands.

god bless the sapphics, our time is now.
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,624 followers
Shelved as 'not-released-tbr'
July 22, 2019
gay + fantasy + great gatsby vibes =
Profile Image for ☀︎El In Oz☀︎.
560 reviews321 followers
Want to read
July 13, 2021
And it sounds even more amazing with an official synopsis 😭 SAPPHICS SOLVING A MURDER MYSTERY PLUS GHOSTS WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED?

Edit: It just got pushed back to 2022. Omg why😭
This sounds good and I love mysteries. With fledging mediums. Great Gatsby vibes. Sign me up.
Profile Image for Ashley.
828 reviews483 followers
Want to read
February 20, 2020
OoOhhh this is giving me semi The Diviners vibes (maybe thats because I loved it so much that I, y’know, only binged the entire series in just shy of a week & finished it less than a week ago & i’m dying over it being over ? Who knows. Either way...)
Profile Image for akacya ❦.
1,040 reviews171 followers
May 22, 2022
I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my rating.

When Mina and Evelyn were ten, three teens in their town were murdered. Six years later, their deaths still remain a mystery, though most of the town suspects Evelyn’s father—though Mina and Evelyn made sure through supernatural forces that he wouldn’t be charged for it.

This was an intriguing story that I had trouble putting down! It’s a ghost story, a mystery, and a coming-of-age story all in one. I loved seeing the main characters’ relationship growing throughout the story. Evelyn’s relationships (or lack thereof) with her family members and Mina’s relationship with hers were also explored well and weren’t static, which I appreciated.

I recommend to anyone looking for a mysterious ghost story with bisexual MCs!!
January 28, 2023
This book was, well, a mess. The first third of it was OK but I had invested too much time in it to DNF when it veered toward being simple and uninteresting. The characters were unlikable and hard to relate to because of the way they're written; it was near impossible to feel any sympathy for them. I didn't understand the point of identifying the supporting characters (such as "white girl", Mexican American, Japanese American), and doing so along with creating the characters to be bisexual lent no value to the story. It felt like a forced attempt at being inclusive. The only thing that saved this book from a one star rating was the surprise "who dunit" at the end.
Profile Image for Lorraine (Reading With Lori).
64 reviews13 followers
Want to read
June 19, 2019
*taps mic* Hello, yes, I’m here for the Bi Rep, F/F relationship, 1920’s vibe, unsolved murder and ghosts. I’m emo. I CANT WAIT FOR THE COVER REVEAL.
Profile Image for milliereadsalot.
592 reviews101 followers
April 27, 2022
Thank you Netgalley and Titan Books for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I've never read from Christine Lynn Herman before, but I enjoyed this book a lot! You've got mediums, an unsolved triple murder from six years ago, a potential demon and two girls who have to work out how to save themselves and their town - while also falling for each other. I really liked the two main characters of Evelyn and Mina, particularly Evelyn with her love for the environment, although I did find their voices to be quite similar. The whole ghost-murder-mystery was done really well, to the point where I was getting quite freaked out and didn't want to be reading it at night before I was going to sleep! I loved reading about the details of mediums and scrying focuses; as someone who is connected to that community in real life, it was really fascinating and great to read about it, especially in a way where it wasn't being dismissed as codswallop. I wish we could have seen more of Evelyn and Mina's relationship in this book. You do get some really nice moments between the two of them, but it is largely drowned out by the plot, and I would've really liked to see them actually together a bit more than we got.
Profile Image for Leah Kuntz.
40 reviews3 followers
May 14, 2022
This book, in theory, should be something I love; The Diviners vibes, sapphic mediums, and ghosts all sound amazing. However, I just couldn't help myself from comparing this book to her other duology, The Devouring Gray and The Deck of Omens, both of which I adore, and Drowning Summer didn't hold up on its own. I wanted so much more out of this.
Profile Image for Caitlin Michelle.
534 reviews6 followers
March 27, 2022
**4.5 rounded up**
**Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the e-arc!**

Six years ago, three Long Island teenagers were discovered murdered, with sand dollars placed over their eyes. Evelyn Mackenzie's father was the main suspect until Evelyn summoned a ghost to clear his name, with the help of Mina Zanetti. She swore to never call a spirit again, but when she finds herself in a bind that could drastically impact her future, she breaks her promise. Mina Zanetti's family is a family of mediums that uses the ocean's power to guide the dead to their final resting place. But with Evelyn's summoning, sea levels rising, Mina being shut out of her family's business as mediums, and ghosts becoming more dangerous than ever, they must work together to solve the mystery behind the drowning summer before the ghosts grow too powerful to stop.

I haven't read many ghost stories, but I really enjoyed this one! I thought the way Christine Lynn Herman weaved this story together was very well done. There were a lot of different aspects that came together to solve this mystery, and while I did find a couple of things to be minorly confusing, overall I think she did a great job keeping the reader invested and working to solve the mystery along with Evelyn and Mina. Speaking of those two, the relationship between them developed so perfectly, and I was so happy to see two bisexual main characters! The growth that the two girls go through throughout the story was well-paced and very realistic. I also appreciated the strong focus on the familial and platonic relationships that are incredibly important in this story. Mina's relationships with her mother, uncle, and cousin, and Evelyn's relationships with her father, sister, Nick, Kenny, Luisa, and Amy, were so essential to the story and also to the girls' growth and development as characters. Mina's ability to stand up for herself and believe in her worth and Evelyn's ability to let others in and allow herself to feel connected to others would not have been possible without these additional relationships playing a key role in the story. Overall, this was a wonderful story and I definitely want to read more by this author in the future!
Profile Image for sunny.
102 reviews2 followers
April 8, 2022
ARC provided by NetGalley and the publishers! Thank you so much for allowing me to read this early in exchange for an honest review!

So, it took me a while to get around to this book as I was in the middle of moving, but once I started it I got sucked in and finished it in two sittings!

This was an extremely engaging blend of murder mystery, paranormal investigation, and coming of age story. Two girls who haven't talked since they did something unspeakable as kids get wrapped up in the investigation of a lifetime in their seaside community in an attempt to set things right and solve the mystery of the three teenage murders that took place six years ago.

I won't lie, I did struggle a bit connecting with the two main characters regarding their romance, and so many of their issues and the way they went about things were so Teenagey, but I'm in my twenties and they're 16 and I know in my heart that's not a fault of the book, but just part of growing up LOL. Sure, I cringed when they talked about bi pride eyeshadow and the over-attention to how each other looked and dressed all the time, but it's very teenager. Very teenage sapphic.

The plot itself was very fun. Never quite spine-chilling enough to be YA horror, but a solid mystery that blends true crime and the paranormal. I enjoyed watching them struggle with their powers and I genuinely loved trying to figure out the mystery with them— and was pleasantly surprised by some of the twists that added some depth to it!

I think if you're an adult reading this, it's important to remember this is YA and try and put yourself back in teenage you's shoes for some parts of this, but ultimately I enjoyed myself.

And I know that this book would've been EVERYTHING to me as a sapphic teen, and I hope sapphic teens now find some solace reading a genuinely engaging mystery and paranormal story about two sapphic teenagers.

Well worth a try :) And what a GORGEOUS cover!
Profile Image for Maegan (maeganisreading).
126 reviews11 followers
May 27, 2022

Rating: 4.25⭐️

Thank you to the publisher for gifting me an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book follows Mina and Evelyn who used to be best friends until six years prior during The Drowning Summer. Evelyn’s dad was accused of the murders but the girls summoned a ghost to help clear his name. Six years later, Evelyn summons another ghost for selfish reasons and drags Mina back into her life when the mysterious sand dollar reappears on Mina’s wrist. Both girls must now work together to figure out what’s happening to the ghosts and who actually murdered the Cliffside Trio six years ago, while also confronting their feelings for each other.

I really liked this mystery story. It was an easy read and kept my attention the whole way through. I like the addition of the ghosts and the mediums to the mystery. It added an extra element that fit really well. Both Mina and Evelyn were strong characters who changed throughout the story. The author did a great job highlighting their mental health and how the murders have effected their families over the years. They both have different ways they cope but they still seem to relate to each other. Their transition from friends to a little bit more than friends was well done. It wasn’t the whole point of the story which I appreciate. It was ok the back burner while the mystery unfolded.

I really like when mysteries are set in small towns like this one because we get to meet different people in the town as they sometimes have things to lend to the investigation. The side characters were likeable. It would’ve been nice to see more of what happened to the trio before they were killed but it was still an interesting development.

The ending was a little predictable and I was able to guess the murderer by the end of the book.

Overall, this was a solid YA mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Leslie.
550 reviews14 followers
June 28, 2022
Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the digital galley of this book.

Two childhood friends who haven’t spoken since three teens drowned six years ago. Evelyn’s father was exonerated but people still think he did it. Mina’s family talks to the dead, but her mother’s tried to keep her from it and is hiding secrets of her own. Both girls come back together to solve a mystery and hone their medium skills while trying to lay souls to rest.

This one felt like it took forever to get through, even though it was just a few days. Not sure if it’s post-pandemic time or what, but I really got lost in the story and the characters. I appreciated all the twists and turns, and I’m always here for paranormal/supernatural/witchy stuff. Plus, queer girls, so you know I’m going to read it.

I loved the imagery and the ways that the girls were able to communicate with the dead, a mixture of classic methods passed down through generations, and then something completely out of the ordinary, a reflection of our changing times and the changing coastal ecosystem of their home. There’s some interesting reflections about climate change, but still making it creepy. Props for that.

This one is out now if you’re looking for a supernatural YA set in the summertime. It’s definitely a great option until we can get to the autumn spooky supernatural stuff.
Profile Image for Erin.
662 reviews41 followers
March 4, 2022
3.5 to 4 Stars

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.

This book definitely suffered from not-quite-as-good syndrome, meaning that I read (and loved) All of Us Villains. This book just doesn't live up to that. It's fine. In fact, in a lot of ways, it's fun. But it wasn't as beautifully executed at AOUV. My expectations were perhaps a bit too high, because I was ultimately disappointed.

I did find a lot that I liked in this book, and that will all be included in my full review, available April 22, 2022 at Gateway Reviews.
Profile Image for Therese.
662 reviews161 followers
July 29, 2022
3.5 stars.

Three things I liked:

• The romance!! Evelyn and Mina have that perfect friends to strangers to lovers thing going on, and I think it was really believable and well written, and they were really cute, it was just impossible not to root for them.

• Most of the family dynamics. I think the parts with Mina and her family was kinda all over the place, though I mostly liked it, but my favorite was the dynamic between Evelyn, her dad, and her sister, and how the events of the drowning summer really tore them apart and how they had to work to put themselves together again, and how even that didn't fully work.

• The setting. The ocean and the surrounding community really felt like it's own character, and I think that's very much intentional. The environment shaped the girls, and the girls shaped the environment, and I thought that was really well done.

Two things I didn't like:

• The overuse of one particular metaphor. Mina never shuts up about the ~ocean inside of her~. Whenever she goes through something, she has to explain how the ocean reacts. It's in almost every single chapter and it drove me crazy. I understand that she had trouble expressing emotions but it just so repetitive and boring. There were also other times where the writing was a little bit clunky. It's a bad sign when I'm reading an e-book and start making small notes on the app, because that means I think the writing is doing some not so great stuff.

• I wasn't sold on one of the two main mysteries in here. It was left kinda vague, and I'm sure that was intentional, but instead of feeling vague in an interesting way, it felt like a shortcut, like the author couldn't really be bothered to come up with anything exciting.
Profile Image for Isla.
59 reviews
January 12, 2023
“The ocean in her mind stirred to life again. For so long, Mina had dreaded this sensation, but now she welcomed the surge of emotion. She would no longer be afraid to immerse herself in it.
And she wouldn’t sink. She wouldn’t drown.
She would swim.”

A fun little quick paced sapphic paranormal murder mystery. I honestly don’t know what more you could want than that 🤷‍♀️
Profile Image for Barbara.
12 reviews
February 25, 2022
*Special thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for sharing this digital reviewer copy in exchange for my honest review*

This book falls under the YA mystery thriller/paranormal club for me. The Drowning Summer switches between our two main characters, Evelyn and Mina as they battle creepy things that go bump in the night. And by that I mean ghosts. We're talking about ghosts here people! And boy, do I love a good, well-written ghost story. This books is definitely that and more! The book takes place in the Long Island Sound and something is causing the ghost population to act up more than normal and it's up to our budding main squeezes to figure out what. Did I mention this book has ghosts? And beautifully well written characters with great arcs? Oh and the ocean? Can't forget the ocean.

I'm getting too excited just talking about this! To the things I loved! Gosh, what didn't I love about this book?! I loved getting the dual POV and the characters really shined in both. Evelyn with all her rough edges, passionately short-tempered self, but always wearing her heart on her sleeve. While Mina stuffed any and all emotions down and never really let herself feel anything, too worried she needed to be perfect. Until, of course, Evelyn comes barging through her perfectly laid plans. As one does. I loved getting to know these two and seeing them interact with one another and the other side characters. All the characters felt three dimensional, even the side characters. They had great story arcs and felt flushed out. I enjoyed the representation with LGBTQ+ main characters and POC side characters.

The story overall really kept me hooked. The ghosts unnerved me whenever they appeared. The murder mystery kept me guessing and staying up late, saying "one more chapter" because I was just so enthralled with what was going on. I'm not going to go into too much here because I don't want to spoil anything for readers. Just know if you love a good ghost story with a thrilling murder mystery plot, you'll want to pick this up.

I had no issue with the pacing. Herman did an amazing job of shifting between plot and character development. Herman weaved these two narratives really well and the story never felt dull. I never felt like one or the other was lacking. I was thoroughly engrossed the whole time.

I really enjoyed getting to know the characters, the creepy atmosphere the ghosts added to the story, and trying to unravel the mysteries behind everything. The romance between the characters wasn't in your face, but a slow burn. It didn't detract from the story but added another beautiful layer to it. That slow burn got me. This was me the whole time:
There were some undertones of environmental issues, mainly about the ocean and marine life. It never felt preachy to me though. Granted I care about that stuff so take that as you will.

I've already been recommending this book to people! The characters are well written and have amazing story arcs, the mystery kept me enthralled and engaged and wanting to keep reading. the ghosts were described vividly in all their ghostly eeriness. the romance was *chef's kiss*, the platonic relationships really felt believable, and I was sad when I finished the book. I can't wait to purchase my copy of this to add to my collection! And talk about it incessantly to anyone who has the misfortune to ask me about a book recommendation.
Profile Image for Alicia.
640 reviews10 followers
March 30, 2022
Thank you HBG Canada for gifting me a finished copy for review.

This was a really solid 4 star read for me. I thought the concept was super interesting, and I liked how the author handled the ghosts. The characters were relatable, the plot moved fairly well, and the mystery kept me entertained as we learned new things and things shifted around.
The book follows Mina and Evelyn. These two girls used to be best friends, but six years ago after they summoned a ghost to clear Evelyn’s dad of suspicion over the Drowning Summer murders, they kept their secret but their friendship fell apart. Now, after Evelyn summons a spirit for a selfish reason, Mina is impacted when the mysterious sand dollar mark on her wrist shows up again. Mina and Evelyn were forced to reconnect as they worked together to unravel the truths about not only the Drowning Summer but about their families and their own roles in the present.
I liked both Mina and Evelyn a lot. I thought both girls were likeable and easy to relate to, and I loved seeing their friendship become rekindled as well as seeing their romance grow. I really liked the romance here because it was very much a side plot that felt like it happened naturally over the course of their investigation. It was cute, but it didn’t take over the mystery. I also liked how the author touched on their different coping methods, and how both girls spent a lot of time alone. I especially liked seeing Evelyn grow as a character and learn to embrace herself and open up to the people in her life who wanted to be around her.
The plot was pretty interesting. I found it was a bit slow at times, and I would have liked to see it start moving a bit faster earlier in the story. In the end, I liked the mystery I just wish that we’d been given even more information about what exactly had happened with the victims before they died.
I thought this was a good YA mystery with ghosts and mediums and a sapphic love story. It was interesting and entertaining to read.
Profile Image for Spiri Skye.
361 reviews10 followers
April 29, 2022
Thanks netgalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review
The Drowning Summer is a YA paranormal book with Bisexual representation. This author co-wrote another book I loved, All of Us Villains. I never read the great Gatsby, but I've heard from others it gives that vibe. I've been loving sapphic ghost related YA books lately, this gave me similar vibes to My Dearest Darkest. This is also a mystery/thriller. This has the friends-enemies-lovers trope too which I love! Something else that intrigued me throughout the book was the symbolism of the sand-dollars. Overall I'd recommend to any LGBT+ friends that like YA mysteries/paranormal books.
Profile Image for kaitlyns_library.
439 reviews15 followers
July 30, 2022
I’m all for YA paranormal books and so I was interested in reading this book. However, I wasn’t engaged with this novel until 50% of the way through. The pace picks up with twists after twists and some were not predictable, which I liked. I would say that I mostly enjoyed this book, but I couldn’t love it. This book also includes a sapphic romance (both characters are bi).
This novel is a mix of sapphic, paranormal, murder mystery and Great Gatsby vibes. If these are themes you’re interested in, give this one a go!

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