Until September by Harker Jones – Book Review

Until September by Harker Jones – Book Review

Until September by Harker Jones

Until September

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I was so young when it all began that the blame hardly feels like mine. …

In the lull between the conservative ’50s and the turbulent ’60s, Kyle Ryan Quinn, an introspective, sentimental boy, leads a golden life. He’s rich, beautiful and smart, and he vacations each year on the same island with the same circle of friends: entitled Adonis Trent; acerbic Claudia; practical Dana; and frivolous Carly. Haunted by the ghosts of a tragedy that took place in his youth, Kyle is more sensitive than his privileged friends. He understands loss, and secrets.

When he meets Jack Averill, a quiet, bookish boy, his fateful 18th summer on the island, Kyle falls hopelessly, heedlessly in love. As he befriends and attempts to woo Jack — and tries to integrate him into his tight-knit yet troubled circle — he’s pursued himself by another summer boy, Trey, who will stop at nothing to win Kyle’s love, all while Trent toys with the affections of an island girl. Amid mounting familial, sexual and peer pressures, all four young men make heartbreaking decisions that will steal their innocence, destroy lives and consume them forever.

Review by Julie

‘Until September’ is an appropriately-titled tale by American-based author and screenwriter, Harker Jones We meet privileged eighteen-year-old Kyle and his cohort in 1966 on a small unnamed island where the economy relies on fishing and ‘the summer people’ This tight-knit
platonic group of five spend every summer holiday together and discourage intrusion from anyone else so it’s disconcerting for the other four when Kyle tries to bring Jack, a gentle boy he spots on the beach, into their inner clique.

We see how the summer pans out with the parts broken down into months from May to September; each of these then subdivided by brief scenes. The story is told in the past tense mainly from the perspective of Kyle but occasionally from others. His foils are not over-intrusive but sufficiently prominent to add depth to the backdrop. Emotions run high as territorial jealousies surface and awkward conversations result from the changing dynamic; this summer will be a turning point for all of them. We learn of hinted-at past tragedy and loss with songs of the era being played or sung to cement the action in time and place.

This sensitively-written story is multi-layered and explores emotional and practical issues surrounding first love, with the added dimension of this being a same-sex couple in mid-60s America, when the world was only just beginning to adjust to this type of relationship and acceptance was far from certain.

Rich in symbolism, the wistful, sometimes whimsical, narrative style is reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh. The author uses evocative language and literary techniques in abundance to paint a vivid picture of surroundings and feelings which, for the most part, have the desired effect. Although at over 450 pages, I found some parts to be rather drawn out as Kyle and Jack negotiate their feelings and tentatively circle around one another. I was struck by the cover’s design; two people standing on a foundation of sand and congratulate Harker Jones on his choice, which is ever more poignant as Kyle and Jack’s relationship intensifies. The summer ends in an unexpected way with far-reaching consequences for all concerned.

Settling on a star rating was difficult because without doubt anyone reading this novel cannot fail to be touched by the power of the story and its melancholy overtones. However, it had few lighter elements to contrast with the darker pathos, so I was left with an overwhelming feeling of despondency. This certainly wasn’t a happy feel-good read but I cannot deny its impact or the sophistication of its writer. I award 5 stars.

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Harker Jones

Harker Jones

I grew up on a dirt road in Michigan and started writing when I was 13. I was inspired to write “Until September” while I was suffering an unrequited crush on a beautiful boy. He was lovely and kind but he was with someone else, so I channelled my emotions into a book. I now live in LA where I’ve taken up screenwriting, having adapted my first novel, a mystery-thriller, into a screenplay called “Never Have I Ever.” I have seven completed feature scripts, focusing mostly on comedy and horror. My first two short scripts, “Cole & Colette” and “One-Hit Wonder,” have been produced (one of them won a contest and the other was purchased) and accepted into a combined 63 film festivals, winning several awards.

I’m the book reviews editor of the literary journal Gertrude Press. If you’d like to support queer arts, consider becoming a patron at www.patreon.com/GertrudePress. Additionally, I’m a member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, I have an Emmy-winning producer for a partner, and we’re the proud parents of a demon-cat named Holly (whose adventures you can follow on IG @hollywood.jones). I love horror movies, cats, autumn and carbs, and I’m a card-carrying member of Mensa.

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