Book Review: The Summer the World Ended by Matthew S. Cox

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Title: The Summer the World Ended
Author: Matthew S. Cox
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication Date: June 29th, 2015
Genres: General Fiction, Post-apocalyptic, Young Adult



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The Summer the World EndedThe Summer the World Ended
Matthew S. Cox
Curiosity Quills Press, June 2015
ISBN 978-1-62007-904-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

As far as Riley McCullough is concerned, her best friend getting ‘dragged’ off to Puerto Vallarta for the first two weeks of summer vacation was the end of the world―at least until the bombs fell.

Life in suburban New Jersey with her mother has been comfortable, not to mention boring, to an introverted fourteen year old. As if her friend’s surprise trip wasn’t bad enough, her expectations for the ‘best summer ever’ disintegrate when she gets sent across the country to stay with a father she hasn’t seen in six years. Adjusting to a tiny, desert town where everyone stares at them like they don’t belong proves difficult, and leaves her feeling more isolated than ever. To make matters worse, her secretive father won’t tell the truth about why he left―or what he’s hiding.

Her luck takes an unexpected turn for the better when she meets a boy who shares her interest in video games and contempt for small town boredom. In him, she finds a kindred spirit who might just make the middle of nowhere tolerable.

Happiness is short lived; fleeing nuclear Armageddon, she takes shelter with her dad in an underground bunker he’d spent years preparing. After fourteen days without sun, Riley must overcome the sorrow of losing everything to save the one person she cares about most.

If I had any doubts about what is meant by the title, The Summer the World Ended, they were driven out by the very first pages  when a 14-year-old girl is confronted with a devastating loss and, because it truly is the first pages, it’s easy to figure out that a whole world of hurt is coming at Riley this summer. Riley herself is a teen you could find just about anywhere—excited to be starting high school in the fall, squabbles with her mom sometimes but also loves to have movie day with her, somewhat addicted to video games, looking forward to a summer hanging out with her BFF, Amber. How could she possibly know that her entire world would be turned upside down in a matter of minutes and that so much more is yet to come?

Accompanying Riley as she maneuvers her way through this new life is the core of the story and I found Riley to be equally engaging in moments of deepest sorrow or fits of giggles or rampant fear. I had to wonder if there might be a 14-year-old girl in the author’s life because he certainly knows how to create one.

As much as I enjoyed Riley and her life journey, I had some issues. I had a real problem connecting with Riley’s dad and her relationship with him. I’ve never been in Riley’s position but I fail to understand how he could essentially abandon her for years and then she would accept him back into her life  with little to no explanation. And what kind of father has his young daughter pack up her dead mother’s things while he basically sits on his rear? Also, I find it very hard to believe that the woman paid off her house but left no money; how is it likely that she wouldn’t have at least some money in the bank? It also made no sense to me that Riley’s dad couldn’t find a way to hold on to the house for her future—why not rent it out and use the income to pay the taxes he says are so burdensome? Finally, how is it possible that the child advocate who was so very solicitous at first would then completely disappear once he’s on the scene?

I also found it nearly impossible to believe that Amber didn’t know about Riley’s mom until two weeks after her death. Not for a minute do I think that Riley could avoid telling her or that Amber wouldn’t realize something was wrong, even long distance.

All that aside, post-apocalyptic is one of my favorite subgenres and this one most certainly didn’t disappoint me once that part of the book got going.  That and the overall story are very good and the ending left me kind of breathless and quite taken by surprise. That’s a great way to end a book, don’t you think?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

About the Author

Matthew S. CoxBorn in a little town known as South Amboy, NJ, in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division ZeroVirtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

He is also fond of cats.

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