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Raven Summer

Review

Raven Summer

David Almond has a reputation for crafting oddly beautiful, thought-provoking books that remain with readers long after the final pages. His newest work holds this same power. Full of images both alluring and deeply disturbing, RAVEN SUMMER is the kind of atmospheric novel that will haunt readers’ thoughts.

Liam is all too aware that he is on the cusp of great changes as he spends one last summer of childhood with his friends and family on England’s Northumbrian coast. This bleak but beautiful landscape that surrounds him offers plenty of fodder for the imagination; historic artifacts and ancient structures play roles in daily lives, even in the 21st century. Liam and his friends still love to while away their days hiking and playing football, spending long summer evenings playing games similar to hide and seek. But Liam finds that the focus of his friends --- and, at times, he himself --- has turned in different directions, both toward the increasingly attractive prospect of the opposite sex and, in a darker turn, toward violence.

Liam’s thoughts often turn toward violent topics; planes bound for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan roar overhead regularly, and several soldiers from his area have died or been kidnapped in wars overseas. His own mother, an artist, has obtained a fair measure of success, in part by photographing abstract images of the wounds on Liam’s body in the wake of fights with his friends. These fights grow increasingly menacing as Liam tries and fails to distance himself from his childhood friend, Gordon Nattrass. Nattrass also fancies himself an artist, and his video installation --- which focuses on disturbing reenactments of hangings and beheadings --- inspires Liam and his parents to consider the fine line between art and sensationalism.

Liam’s father is a famous novelist who spends most of his time upstairs in his study, rarely engaging with his family’s life. That is, until Liam and his friend Max follow a raven to where a small baby girl has been left alongside a note and a jar full of cash. The story inspires Liam’s father’s imagination and captivates the media as well. When the family later visits the baby’s foster family, Liam finds himself drawn to two other foster kids, whose future directions seem somehow fated to be tied up in his own. Both these children come from legacies of violence, which is part of their fascination for Liam. But when all the strands of his story converge in a tense encounter, how will Liam himself react?

RAVEN SUMMER is a novel that will raise as many timeless questions for the reader as they do for Liam himself. What are the origins of evil? Do humans start off as innocents, or are we evil by nature? What are the connections among beauty, truth and art? Is there ever any value in creating or considering images of violence and war? Throughout, Liam’s reflective approach to his life and his elegiac contemplation of his own rapidly vanishing childhood will draw in mature readers and inspire them to their own thoughtful considerations.

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Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011

Raven Summer
by David Almond

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385738064
  • ISBN-13: 9780385738064