Title: Cold Summer by Gwen Cole
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Young Adult, Time Travel
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.
Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.
When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.
But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Is Kale’s death inevitable? Does this mean that, one of these days, when Kale travels to the past, he may not come back?
Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.
In Cold Summer by Gwen Cole, a teen’s time-traveling ability endangers his life and puts him at odds with his family.
Kale Jackson began time-traveling at seven years of age and recently his “trips” have begun to occur with alarming frequency. His recent travels take him back in time to World War II where his skills as a marksman put him in harm’s way. Kale’s brother Bryce and sister Libby have always been his staunch supporters, but with Bryce ignoring him as he prepares to leave for college and Libby spending the summer with their mother, Kale has little reason to remain in the present. Adding to his stress is his increasingly fractured relationship with his father, who makes no effort to hide skepticism for his son’s inexplicable disappearances.
Until six years ago, Harper Croft spent her summers with her Uncle Jasper. She, Kale and Libby were inseparable during her visits but in recent years, she is only in touch with Libby. Now moving in with her Uncle Jasper permanently due to her mother’s recent move, Harper is looking forward to renewing these friendships. Although she is aware of Kale’s disappearances, she has no idea why he periodically vanishes. Despite her alarm over his unhealthy appearance and his apparent unhappiness, Harper keeps her promise she made to him long ago. But when she discovers shocking information about his visits back to World War II, will Harper convince to Kale to try to figure out how to control his unusual ability?
In theory, time travel sounds like an exciting adventure, but as Kale knows all too well, not everyone is willing to believe he travels into the past. Although his siblings and best friend Miles never doubt his stories about his adventures, he has given up trying to convince his father he is telling the truth. Kale is quickly sinking into despondency when he thinks about his future since his unexplainable absences caused problems with school and extracurricular activities. With everything in the present turning into a unhappy mess, Kale is only slightly troubled by his frequent trips back to World War II. At the same, the situation with his dad is spiraling out of control but Kale stubbornly refuses to provide him with irrefutable proof he is telling the truth. Will he make the same mistake when his relationship with Harper turns romantic?
Harper knows she made the right decision to move in with her Uncle Jasper but she cannot help but wish things were different between her and her emotionally (and now physically) absent mother. Making the best of her new circumstances, she tries to be understanding about Kale’s frequent absences but she is fairly assertive as she tries to persuade him to try fix his relationship with his father. With her concern over his health growing with each of his trips back to World War II, she eventually forces him to tell her the truth about what is going on with him. Once their friendship deepens into romance, will Harper convince Kale to figure out why his travels have become more frequent? And when she learns the truth about what happens to him during World War II, will Kale try to change the outcome?
Cold Summer is a very clever and enjoyable young adult novel with an interesting premise. Gwen Cole does a fantastic job with the time travel element of the story while at the same time gently delivering an important message to her readers. Although flawed, the characters are appealing and sympathetic. The storyline is engaging and quite interesting. The glimpses of Kale’s wartime experiences provide insight into both his need to go back in time to help comrades in arms and his struggles with PTSD in the present. All in all, a riveting young adult novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of all ages.