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Summer On Fire

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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 imminent catastrophe? Summer on Fire is the story of friendships, and the lines we are asked to cross in order to keep them.

Kindle Edition

First published June 28, 2011

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About the author

Kevin Craig

26 books233 followers
Kevin is the author of seven novels: SUMMER ON FIRE (MuseItUp Publishing, 2011),SEBASTIAN'S POET (Musa Publishing, 2012), THE REASONS (Musa Publishing, 2013), BURN BABY BURN BABY (Curiosity Quills Press, 2014), HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN (Curiosity Quills Press, 2015), PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE (MuseItUp Publishing, 2018), and THE CAMINO CLUB (Duet Press/Interlude Press, 2020). Look for Kevin's 2 new YA novels; BOOK OF DREAMS (Duet Press/Interlude Press, 2022) and WHERE IS ETHAN SINCLAIR (Duet Press/Interlude Press, 2023)!

Kevin is a 5-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. They are also a passionate and accomplished playwright. They've had twelve plays produced.

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Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
Profile Image for G. Cribbs.
Author 4 books96 followers
November 11, 2011
Lying is a slippery slope. Once you take a step and start downward, it's hard to stop yourself, regain your footing and find a way back to normalcy. This is what Zach Carson, Jeff Barsell and Arnie Wilson must face as three friends who just want school to end and summer to begin, if only it were that easy.

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.

I gave this book a 5 out of 5 stars, and that was before I learned it was a product of National Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNoWriMo (held every November). SUMMER ON FIRE reminds me of a more innocent (and not so innocent) time when life seemed simpler and less complicated, and boys were boys. It smacks of Stand By Me and The Outsiders. You'll be glad you read this book. I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Kathy Coleman.
Author 2 books37 followers
August 8, 2011
My Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

In his debut novel Summer on Fire, Kevin Craig successfully captures the passing of life within an Ontario town in the early 1980s and what might happen were that town to suddenly be struck by tragedy. This is not my typical type of book. I put my name in for a giveaway drawing over on Absolute Write and won. So there was no way for me to predict what I would think of it. I was very pleasantly surprised.


When a fire is accidentally stopped at Zach, Jeff and Arnie's hangout in Mr. Henderson's barn by a stray cigarette butt falling into a bale of hay, the boys must rush from the burning building and put space between it and them to avoid being in trouble. Afraid already because of their involvement with the destruction of the barn, they are horrified to discover that Mr. Henderson's house also burnt down -- with him in it. Surely they didn't kill him?

This book picks up from the start of the troubles that Zach, Jeff and Arnie find themselves in and does not let go. The thing that impressed me about the plot for Summer on Fire is that the build up of what was happening and the deepening consequences that accompanied it was very much like a fire itself. It mirrored the start of all the trouble and then continued to blaze brighter until it reached its conclusion.

This book was constantly moving forward. It stayed with an event as long as the event was interesting and then moved to the next thing the reader would want to know. The pace of events was excellent. I had to go out and run a few errands with my family and as we drove back I was sitting in the car thinking of how much I wanted to get home so I could continue reading.


There are no wasted people in Summer on Fire. Every character in this book has some interesting piece of history, personality, etc. to share with the reader. From Arnie's mother with her almost "manic" behavior to Jeff's struggles to be his own person, to Marty proving that he wants to be more then a miniature version of his father, every character shone in his or her own way.

I particularly liked the fact that we have interesting teens and interesting adults. The bond between Sherry and Zach and its parallel to the (surprising) bond formed between Marty and Jeff when trouble strikes was brilliant. The bond of friendship shared between Arnie and his mother when things go bad for him was touching, as was her defense of her son when the 'friends' she constantly praised ultimately failed him. The guilt that Zach felt for some of his actions and the ways that other characters made him take responsability. The behavior of Sherry that leaves us wondering if she, like Marty, is ultimately misunderstood as well. I could go on and on. In short, I'll just tell you the characterization is excellent.

The Excellent Use of Not-So-Distant History:

In 1983 I would have been one year old. Thanks to an aunt with a love of 80's video weekends, memories of my early school days from the late 1980's and a general interest and appreciation for how things can change drastically over a short period of time, though, I feel I was able to find a deep satisfaction with Craig's attention to detail in depicting the world his characters inhabited.

From the music they listened to, to the freedom the kids had to run around (aside from the fear when there might be a killer on the lose) to the actual word choices... Everything reflected that, despite the fact that the story took place less then 30 years ago, this very much felt like a very different time and place. The history and its effect on world building, character choices and behavior, family dynamics, etc. made it almost feel like it and the setting it evoked were a character in and of themselves.

In General:

This book was absolutely fantastic. I can already see that this will be making the round among family and friends. It tells a great story and for many that I know, it will likely evoke memories of a different time because of the wonderful attention to detail. I'm very glad to have had the chance to read this.

I would highly recommend this book. It's not an extremely long story, but it has a very interesting, well paced tale to tell. I am confident you won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for Melissa.
45 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2011
It’s 1983, and for Zach Carson, Jeff Barsell, and Arnie Wilson, their summer vacation is off to a terrible start. First, they accidentally set fire to an old barn that they used as one of their hangouts. Then, they discover that the house on the same property was also destroyed—with the owner, Mr. Henderson, still inside. Fearing that they were responsible for Mr. Henderson’s death, the boys make a pact that they’ll never tell anyone what happened that day, no matter what. But when the police begin looking for Jeff’s awful older brother, Marty, in connection with the murder, the boys realize they need to take action or risk Marty being sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
I loved the protagonists in this novel. We see the story through Zach Carson’s eyes and the turmoil he goes through after the fire and pact he makes with his friends. He feels guilty about their part in the accident, but he doesn’t want to lose his friends by turning himself (and them) in. Based on the chemistry among them, it’s obvious the trio has been friends for a long time, or, at least, Jeff and Zach have. You can easily see how the conflict and weight of their situation starts to take a toll on their friendship. Quite frankly, I think they held it together a lot better than I would have in that situation!
Loyalty is a strong theme throughout the book, and we see it in many different ways. Although Zach thinks his older sister, Sherry, is annoying, she’s there for him and really comes through when he needs her. And I think Jeff and Marty surprise us all when they band together to prove Marty’s innocence—especially after Marty and his goon buddies try to beat up Zach and Jeff. In the end, it’s their loyalty to one another that helps them figure out a solution to their situation.
The book’s setting and descriptions were excellent and not overdone. Set in a rural town, it reminded me much of the town where I grew up. Kids were free to roam around the neighborhood after dark, and it was a simpler time.
Really, I just loved everything about this novel. Summer on Fire is a great summer read, and I couldn’t put it down.
Profile Image for Margaret Lesh.
Author 8 books73 followers
January 10, 2013
Summer on Fire pulled me in from the start. This coming-of-age story surrounds three friends—Zach, Jeff, and Arnie—following the consequences of an accident; the careless flicking of a cigarette butt, burning the barn they hang out in to the ground. The careless act sets off a string of unintended consequences leading to a murder investigation. The boys struggle with what they’ve done, quickly becoming caught in a web of lies, putting their relationships with each other to the test.

The interaction of the three friends felt real to me, down to their dialogue—the teasing and put-downs that teen boys so often engage in. It flowed well and felt natural. Also, the characters, including the adults, felt well defined, down to their quirks and idiosyncrasies. I felt like I was given a good picture as the reader of the events taking place. The action moved at a good pace, keeping me turning the pages. And it’s nice to read a quality young adult novel written from the male perspective; there aren't many out there.

This coming-of-age story shows the development of not only the three main characters but two of the supporting characters as well, Zach’s sister Sherry and Jeff’s brother Marty—both unlikable people at first who ultimately show that they have their own redeeming qualities. Kevin Craig writes so beautifully, painting the whole picture, in Summer on Fire as well as his other published novel Sebastian’s Poet. I am definitely a fan and look forward to his next book.
Profile Image for J.J. Toner.
Author 40 books137 followers
September 14, 2011

This is a lively book for Young Adults, featuring three Canadian boys, their families, and a mysterious house fire. Some of the narrative seemed a tad uneven in regard to the way teenage boys might think/react. On the one hand, they plotted their way out of trouble like seasoned veterans, on the other they seemed to cry at the drop of a hat. This is my only quibble (and I am a notorious quibbler). The book is beautifully crafted and well written, with several memorable characters, distinctive speech patterns, and fascinating local idiom.

I learned a few new words, like 'muumuu' and 'dooryard'.

So many books nowadays try to be clever, flashing back and forth between the past and the present or switching point of view. I usually end up being confused by these. Mr. Craig keeps things simple, telling the story in a straightforward linear style Also, most of the books I read are too long; a few are too short. This one is just right. Why do I feel like Goldilocks all of a sudden?

Profile Image for Nicki.
111 reviews7 followers
October 23, 2011
I won this through Goodreads' First Reads Program. This was a really good book. All the characters were relevant and well-developed, and the plot didn't ever drag. It was really good and kept you interested throughout the story. I'd recommend it to anyone. :)
Profile Image for Andrew Buckley.
Author 9 books138 followers
September 7, 2011
Kevin T Craig, although an established and talented writer, completely outdid himself with his debut YA novel ‘Summer on Fire’. A coming of age story that makes ‘Stand By Me’ just seem like a nice song... Read the rest of the review at my site: http://www.planetkibi.com/blogocity.html
Profile Image for Colleen.
Author 3 books40 followers
September 22, 2011
I LOVED the tone and feel of Summer On Fire. Very Stand By Me. I'll be posting a full review next week on my blog, but yeah, I dug this book a lot.
Profile Image for Connie Di Pietro.
9 reviews4 followers
February 8, 2012
Reminded me of Stephen King's The Body! Well done three dimensional characters that leap off the page and come to life!
Profile Image for S.T. Hills.
47 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2019
I really enjoyed this book. Friendship, loyalty and snippets of the 80’s. Boys being boys, I loved them all.
Profile Image for Katelyn (Tales of Books and Bands).
161 reviews55 followers
February 2, 2012
Summer On Fire is a pretty good book. The narrator had some likable qualities, the situations that Zach and his friends get into kept me turning pages, and the story ended on a pretty positive note. There may have been a few things about the main characters I didn’t particularly like but all in all, I enjoyed it!

This is a story of three boys living in a sleepy, little town. Not much happens here. There’s the town drunk who happens to be Jeff’s father, the wacky woman who happens to be Arnie’s mom, and then there is the crazy old man who happens to die in a house fire that Zach, Jeff, and Arnie started. So as you can tell, their summer isn’t off to a very good start. With their lives and the whole town up in a tizzy, things for these three spiral out of control faster than you can scream “FIRE!”

Zach and his friends are the epitome of teenage boys. As the older sister to three brothers, I have a fairly good understanding on how they act. Reading this book allowed us to get right in the head of the three boys. What they do for fun, what they really think about girls, the troublesome things they do every other minute. I think it is great of Kevin to create a story so appealing to any guy out there. For the older guys it will bring back memories of how they spent their summers with their friends back in the day. For the younger boys…well it may give them some not so good ideas of how to pass the time by. KIDDING! Yes there are things that they definitely shouldn’t do but it is also a heartwarming story about friendship.

Zach is such a normal guy. His friend Jeff is cute, crazy, and extremely loyal. His other friend Arnie is a bit nerdy, okay A LOT nerdy, sweet, sometimes ignorant, but very reliable. If Jeff and Arnie are on two opposite sides of the spectrum, Zach falls somewhere in the middle. He doesn’t have as much confidence as Jeff but he believes in himself a bit more than Arnie. He isn’t as shy as Arnie but he will never be outgoing like Jeff. He always seems to fall somewhere in the middle and I loved that Kevin made it that way. People are not always the most outgoing, the nerdiest person or the one who stands out. Sometimes people are like Zach, just blending in. For the most part Zach is a character I really liked. He made some very poor decisions in the book and there were moments where I just wanted to shake him and tell him to be a good friend but he seemed to work things out on his own.

Zach’s friends make the whole story interesting with their crazy, screwed up lives. Jeff is a character I just wanted to envelope in a big hug. Nothing comes easy for him and the mess they get themselves into only make matters worse for him. However, by the end of the story I think he learns a lot and is ultimately a better person. Arnie caused a few laughs in this otherwise tension filled book. He is so odd (in fact he reminded me of myself a few times!) and you never knew what was going to come out of his mouth next!

As I stated, there were a lot of decisions made by all three characters in the book that just didn’t sit well with me. The semi-dangerous things they did every day were fine, I understand that they were boys and as they say “boys will be boys”. I know things needed to be done to have the type of effect this book has but that does not mean I need to like it when it’s happening. (Yes, I am being annoying elusive on purpose. You will have to read the book to understand what I’m talking about!)

The underline themes and meaning to the story were beautiful. A whole town is made a better place but more importantly Zach, Jeff, and Arnie become better people by the end of Summer On Fire. They were there for each other during the hardest times and they grew up a TON.

I can’t really say what it is about this book that made it so iffy for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great story with a touching meaning, but something was missing. I don’t know if the fact that it is a very “boyish” book deterred me from loving it or if it was something completely different. Regardless, it was a good book and one that I would definitely recommend for guys!
June 28, 2012
I have to say that I loved this book. It may be short but it has such appeal. It's full of wonderful descriptions and charm. The 3 friends involved are so well portrayed that you can imagine them right in front of you. The scene of the barn fire is very convincing - the reader is pulled into the boys' nonsense and fun, when suddenly everything changes. Their happy, carefree friendship changes for good. Even Jeff's misery over his burnt jacket displays how the friendships have changed already.His friends don't realise how mean and vindictive Jeff's father is until that moment.
During the story the reader gets to know the families of the 3 boys - each family so different from the others. One seemingly 'normal' family, one with a crazy mother and Jeff's family. The introduction of Marty, the 'bad' brother of Jeff, adds to the tangled lives of the friends, and added a bit of suspense to the book.
All the characters, even the dead one, are convincing. I enjoyed the book and found it a very good read.

Summer on Fire - Kevin Craig
Profile Image for Sandra Cormier.
Author 3 books9 followers
November 17, 2011
Summer On Fire is a coming of age story about three boys who are on the edge of adolescence, looking forward to a carefree summer. But when one of them accidentally sets a bar ablaze, the consequences build up until they question each others' loyalties.

New alliances build and old rivalries are dashed as the boys struggle between covering up a crime and coming clean.

The book reminded me of Stand By Me and The Goonies. It is an enjoyable read, taking us into the inner workings of a young man's mind.
Profile Image for Dale Long.
Author 6 books12 followers
November 26, 2014
Forget the YA tag, this is a great story for all ages.
Ms. Halverton is almost as much a scene stealer as her dialogue.
Summer on fire pulls in all the good keynotes that made movies like Goonies, Stand By Me and My Girl so resonant. The characters are real, the dialogue and actions are natural and the story just flows.
It is a book that has you grinning like a fool by the end.
Author 23 books13 followers
February 21, 2012
A simple little action can have such huge consequences. The author has us feeling their panic, their fear, as Zach, Arnie and Jeff deal with the consequences of one little tossed cigarette. It's a great portrayal of an instant changing a life, and the chain reaction that follows.
Profile Image for Lyndi Allison.
Author 6 books28 followers
September 14, 2012
Thoroughly enjoyed how these young men found themselves in trouble, tried to avoid the responsibility for it and are eventually found out.
1 review
October 6, 2013
Loved this coming of age young adult novel. good Character development. Never expected the ending.
5 reviews5 followers
September 13, 2014
My daughter Connie lent me her signed copy. I highly recommend this book and place it along side "Stand by Me" for a MUST READ!
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews

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