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Summer Fun

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From acclaimed author Jeanne Thornton, an epic, singular look at fandom, creativity, longing, and trans identity Gala, a young trans woman, works at a hostel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. She is obsessed with the Get Happies, the quintessential 1960s Californian band, helmed by its resident genius, B—-. Why did the band stop making music? Why did they never release From acclaimed author Jeanne Thornton, an epic, singular look at fandom, creativity, longing, and trans identity Gala, a young trans woman, works at a hostel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. She is obsessed with the Get Happies, the quintessential 1960s Californian band, helmed by its resident genius, B—-. Why did the band stop making music? Why did they never release their rumored album, Summer Fun? Gala writes letters to B—- that shed light not only on the Get Happies, but paint an extraordinary portrait of Gala. The parallel narratives of B—- and Gala form a dialogue about creation–of music, identity, self, culture, and counterculture. Summer Fun is an epic and magical work of trans literature that marks Thornton as one of our most exciting and original novelists.


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From acclaimed author Jeanne Thornton, an epic, singular look at fandom, creativity, longing, and trans identity Gala, a young trans woman, works at a hostel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. She is obsessed with the Get Happies, the quintessential 1960s Californian band, helmed by its resident genius, B—-. Why did the band stop making music? Why did they never release From acclaimed author Jeanne Thornton, an epic, singular look at fandom, creativity, longing, and trans identity Gala, a young trans woman, works at a hostel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. She is obsessed with the Get Happies, the quintessential 1960s Californian band, helmed by its resident genius, B—-. Why did the band stop making music? Why did they never release their rumored album, Summer Fun? Gala writes letters to B—- that shed light not only on the Get Happies, but paint an extraordinary portrait of Gala. The parallel narratives of B—- and Gala form a dialogue about creation–of music, identity, self, culture, and counterculture. Summer Fun is an epic and magical work of trans literature that marks Thornton as one of our most exciting and original novelists.

30 review for Summer Fun

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Thornton

    i'm surprised this is up this soon, but sure yeah i thought this was okay i'm surprised this is up this soon, but sure yeah i thought this was okay

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    Jeanne Thornton's Summer Fun is the trans fiction I have been waiting to read, and I am so glad it is here. Gala is a trans woman living in the New Mexico desert who finds herself with a trans friend, Ronda, who she doesn't really want to be friends with, and a girlfriend, Caroline, who can't quite seem to understand Gala. With the background of these rough-and-tumble queer friendships, Gala tells two stories through letters written to a rock star of old, Diane, a trans woman who tried to be hers Jeanne Thornton's Summer Fun is the trans fiction I have been waiting to read, and I am so glad it is here. Gala is a trans woman living in the New Mexico desert who finds herself with a trans friend, Ronda, who she doesn't really want to be friends with, and a girlfriend, Caroline, who can't quite seem to understand Gala. With the background of these rough-and-tumble queer friendships, Gala tells two stories through letters written to a rock star of old, Diane, a trans woman who tried to be herself before society was ready for her. Gala recounts Diane's coming to terms with her own transness all while helming one of the biggest rock bands of the 60s and 70s, the Get Happies. Ironic as the name is, neither Diane nor Gala can seem to find happiness as they struggle to understand themselves as trans in a world that doesn't want - get? - trans people. Summer Fun is a beautifully written story of trans friendship and life transition. Thornton communicates inner experiences in a noteworthy fashion and in a way that is rare in contemporary fiction. And though the format of the book is odd (and admittedly does not really make sense) - it is written in letters and told in second-person voice -, the narrative itself is moving. This book will at times have you laughing and at times have you crying and in the end it will leave you happy - joyous even - that you read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Morgan M. Page

    As a long time Get Happies fan, I was so pleased to read this new biography by Jeanne Thornton. Wow!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alanna Why

    By the end of 1966, Brian Wilson had already been working on Smile for months. Recording the unfinished album—one of the most infamous in all of rock music history—had been a mired process from the beginning. It was made all the more complicated when Wilson decided to start recording his “Elements” cycle, four songs devoted to earth, water, air, and fire, striving for as much sonic authenticity as possible. When recording the latter element’s song, Wilson had his musicians wear toy fireman’s hat By the end of 1966, Brian Wilson had already been working on Smile for months. Recording the unfinished album—one of the most infamous in all of rock music history—had been a mired process from the beginning. It was made all the more complicated when Wilson decided to start recording his “Elements” cycle, four songs devoted to earth, water, air, and fire, striving for as much sonic authenticity as possible. When recording the latter element’s song, Wilson had his musicians wear toy fireman’s hats and told the janitor to start a fire in a bucket so he could record the sound of crackling wood. A few days later, a building near the recording studio burned to the ground. Wilson feared that his “witchcraft music” was the cause and stopped working on Smile shortly thereafter. Jeanne Thornton’s latest novel Summer Fun, released in July by Soho Press, blends the myths of ‘60s surf rock and witchcraft with alchemical effect. Set in 2009, the story is told in a series of letters written by Gala, a trans woman in her mid-20s living in New Mexico, to her rock idol B—, the reclusive lead singer of her favourite ‘60s surf-pop band, The Get Happies. At a virtual book launch hosted by Brooklyn shop Books Are Magic, Thornton said she chose to write an epistolary novel after she was inspired by the tone of her own coming-out letter to a dear friend. “There was a raw and weird energy in there that was intriguing,” she said. Summer Fun is titled after The Get Happies own unreleased album, an ironic title choice considering that the book takes place from September to January, with very little “fun” occurring for any of the characters. One of the most impressive aspects of the novel is the authenticity with which Thornton writes about music-making, as well as the often volatile power dynamics that come along with the territory. While fictional music narratives can often come across as fake or melodramatic, the story of B— and The Get Happies is fully realized and believable, largely by Thornton’s tapping into The Beach Boys’ real history and mythology alike. Asked why she chose The Beach Boys to draw from for the novel, Thornton said, “There was a lot of intensity with fans of The Beach Boys. I definitely think their music has a deep, magical quality to it.” Through her letters, Gala tells both B— and the reader the story of the group, at first, a surf rock band of brothers, relatives, and friends in the early ‘60s, managed by the boys’ father. As Gala writes, “Here is what is going to happen to you. One day, you are going to grow up. You and your cousin Tom Happy will form a band. Your brothers will join you in this band; a neighbour will too. This band will be successful beyond what you or anyone considered possible. You will work extremely hard, and through that work you will produce albums that people will continue to listen to fifty years after their release.” As the decade progresses, the band goes from recording conventional, simplistic Americana hits to sonically sophisticated records that change the course of rock recording history. Much like The Beach Boys did by transitioning from hits like “Surfin’ U.S.A.” to the aural mastery of Pet Sounds, The Get Happies go from recording songs like “Diner Girl” to seeking more experimental sounds during the process of recording Summer Fun. (Thornton’s pitch-perfect fake album titles are laid out in The Get Happies discography that opens the novel, with 1999’s The Get Happies Say God Bless America To Our Musical Heritage so accurate it made me laugh out loud.) Summer Fun’s greatest sleight of hand is how Thornton expertly takes the myths of both the ‘60s and rock history and subverts them. While the early ‘60s are often characterized as an idyllic time of post-war boom for white Americans contrasted with the violence of the decade’s end, Thornton makes it clear that there was nothing simple about its early years. Even for a character like B—, a successful musician in a popular band, there is nothing easy about living up to the rock-solid expectations of 1960s masculinity. B—’s father, also The Get Happies manager, is emotionally and verbally abusive to B—, who learns to cope with this pain through self-harm at an early age. Just as Brian Wilson struggled with undiagnosed schizoaffective disorder and manic depression, The Get Happies’ B— also struggles with mental health, one topic among many considered ultra-taboo at the time. Thornton said she was not only inspired by The Beach Boys for Summer Fun, but by Connie Converse, a little-known ‘50s American musician who disappeared in 1974. Although her music was not widely known or released until the 2000s, she is credited today as one of the first singer-songwriters in the Western pop-rock tradition. The myth of Connie Converse is translated through the character of Mona, B—’s wife. Despite also being a musician and leading her own band, The Pin-Up Dollies, Mona’s success is overshadowed by that of her husband. Mona and B—’s sexless marriage is one of convenience, an illusion for the two of them to maintain heteronormative normalcy, as Mona tells B— that she is a lesbian (Converse was also believed to be a lesbian, although this has never been confirmed). B—’s success takes an enormous toll on Mona, who is forced to continue to work at a record store while B— continues the Summer Fun recording experiments. Eventually, the two come to blows, with Mona telling B—, “If you were a girl, you wouldn’t be me… You wouldn’t be you, either. You’d never have learned to play the guitar, or had friends tell you were good enough to write songs, or had anyone with money want to pay you for your songs, or fucking kids, fucking kids in the music store dragging their girlfriends, their wives in by the fucking wrists… who come up to the counter to buy an album your face on it.” Still, B— is suffering just as much as Mona is by the gendered expectations of their marriage. As Thornton stated, “Participation in the world is not something you get for free, for all women.” While much is made of B—’s history and myth, Gala writes of Mona that “few biographers seem concerned with where she goes.” The tension between Mona and B— is echoed in the relationship between Gala and Caroline, a cis lesbian with connections to The Get Happies who Gala starts dating at the beginning of the novel. Their relationship, as well as that between Gala and the only other trans woman in town, Ronda, is one of the few ways that the reader learns anything personal about Gala. But even though Gala is telling the story, her story is wrapped up in the same one as B—. As Gala writes, “Remember when I said I wasn’t going to tell you anything about my life story? But I will tell you this: I’m an American. Exactly how much of my story can I separate from yours?” In Summer Fun, Jeanne Thornton not only subverts the myths of ‘60s rock but shows the dedication of fandom and the transformative magic of our obsessions. Enjoyed this review? It originally appeared as a part of my newsletter about contemporary literature and pop culture from a queer woman's perspective, Why's World. Read more and subscribe at www.alannawhy.substack.com

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anada Werner

    Incredible, decadent, devastating spiral! Especially recommended for fans of non-linear realities, harmonics, and The Get Happies. Feels like walking a mile over hot coals in a dissociative state, the air teeming with the scent of apple blossoms and good vibrations.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Saturniidead (Elliot)

    Content warning: (view spoiler)[animal abuse, church, abusive parents, vomiting, sex, suicide, misgendering, transphobia, smoking, drugs, dysphoria, domestic violence, illness, nudity, child labor, physical punishment, homelessness, poverty, starvation, rape, sexual harassment, alcohol, gaslighting, death, outing, homophobia, classism, divorce, porn, guns, financial abuse, masturbation, military service, stealing, trespassing, misogyny, underage drinking/smoking, slurs, self harm, public nudity, Content warning: (view spoiler)[animal abuse, church, abusive parents, vomiting, sex, suicide, misgendering, transphobia, smoking, drugs, dysphoria, domestic violence, illness, nudity, child labor, physical punishment, homelessness, poverty, starvation, rape, sexual harassment, alcohol, gaslighting, death, outing, homophobia, classism, divorce, porn, guns, financial abuse, masturbation, military service, stealing, trespassing, misogyny, underage drinking/smoking, slurs, self harm, public nudity, slavery mention, ableism, theft, hate crime, conversion therapy, detransition, performative activism (hide spoiler)] I was given an advance reader copy by the author in exchange for an honest review. I’d love to thank Jeanne again for this opportunity! Summer Fun is intensely almost beyond words for me, as this book was packed to the brim with a lavish and complicated world that summaries can’t do a full justice. As I’m writing this, my head is still in a whirl after reading, but it has me wanting to run back and read it all again. Just seeing the premise, following a dedicated trans woman fangirl of a 60’s band with complex lore spoke to me and my interests, but the book goes so deeply beyond that exploring identity, abuse, coping, community, ignorance and more. The well stacked cast of the book gets intimately profiled, painting such a detailed picture of humanity and it’s struggles. This is a collection of Gala’s letters addressed to the 60’s band Get Happies leader, B—-, in attempt to meet this reclusive artist, each varying in contents and cast. Sometimes we follow Gala's current life working in a small town hot springs hostel, her one friend and fellow trans woman Ronda and the drama she provides, and her encounters and tumultuous relationship with a mysterious cis woman and travelling videographer named Caroline. Other times Gala looks into the past at the Get Happies, narrating B—-'s life and her journey through her childhood and up, showing the story of her band and her growth, painting a picture of the band's creation and career behind the scenes. There is constantly fresh information to feed on, looking into the childhood of B—-'s parents, Get Happies recording sessions, fleeting but impactful encounters B—- has with queer individuals, and so many more snapshots of life. These moments tie directly back to Gala, her environment, and motivations in the present searching for answers to mysteries in the Get Happies history. The lives Gala describes all play into her and B—-'s journeys of self, often bringing in elements of magic, spirituality, superstition, and otherworldliness. Despite this, there's still a very raw capture of genuine emotion, not shying away from awkward, embarrassing, painful, and humble moments. It really helps the characters feel more real, like Gala nerding out and painting thrifted figures to be the Get Happies members, her inner monologues of anxiety and anger around cis women being ignorant, and her exhaustion of trauma bonding with Ronda on trans topics. None of the characters are perfect, each of them having both very sympathetic aspects as well as deeply flawed behaviors. Altogether it provides a truly honest, down to earth, gritty and detailed look at trans life in the recent and distant past, and how certain privileges and surroundings deeply impact each experience. Genuinely, I fell in love with this book completely. The amount of intense detail never failed to knock me off of my feet, from the full discography of the Get Happies outlined at the front, to the illustrated album covers dividing the parts only helped to fully immerse readers into the band. Even the thoughtful mark of a trans author in cleverly avoiding outright mentioning characters deadnames, while making sure the reader understood what was happening was a comforting sight. This trans representation was earnest and so phenomenally done that it brought me to tears. Even Thornton's writing style was something I quickly fell in love with too, with its incredibly descriptive nature, using embellished allegories to really heighten the setting and tone. The passion put into this story absolutely comes out through its words, and it left me with a new favorite book. Summary Readability: ★★★★☆, Using letters as a format with so many perspectives made reading a very easy experience, almost like reading an anthology of connected lives. I only take off one star because this book has a lot of recurring graphic domestic violence, physical and verbal, as well as detailed dysphoria depictions. Overall, the themes of this book are difficult and dark, this isn’t a casual happy story despite the title! Being aware of the content warnings is crucial before diving in. Entertainment: ★★★★★, I set a daily reading goal to finish this book in a week, and ended up blowing that goal out of the water with how much I struggled to put this book down! The freshness of changing perspectives that provided excitement, while still tying into each other in a way that keeps you mystified and satisfied had me hooked. There is so much to take in that I took an incredible amount of notes, and I say that enthusiastically! Quickly, I became deeply invested in Gala’s interest in the band, and I found myself easily falling down the complex Get Happies lore rabbit hole with her. Audience: This book really has a unique feel to me, but it’s something that deeply appealed to my tastes. If you’re someone who likes a more abstract, introspective, emotionally complicated and moody book that leaves you thinking, I’d strongly recommend it. I’d be mostly inclined to say seasoned trans readers would be the best fit, since the representations of trans identity is very nuanced, harsh, and explicit. For cis readers, it would be important to be well informed before diving in in order to catch these subtleties and understand them. If you like We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan and The Ship We Built, I feel like this could be a comparative magical mix of the elements these two have (Historical trans representation, identity reflection, personal letters format).

  7. 5 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    I'm torn on this one. I think Thornton's writing is beautiful and insightful, and in theory I love the concept of this book: a contemporary aimless trans woman writes letters to the lead of a fictional 60s band leader a la Brian Wilson, whose life turns out to intersect with hers in unforeseen ways. But I had a lot of trouble connecting to any of the characters, although I can't pinpoint why. I feel like others may have a very different experience with this book, especially those with a particul I'm torn on this one. I think Thornton's writing is beautiful and insightful, and in theory I love the concept of this book: a contemporary aimless trans woman writes letters to the lead of a fictional 60s band leader a la Brian Wilson, whose life turns out to intersect with hers in unforeseen ways. But I had a lot of trouble connecting to any of the characters, although I can't pinpoint why. I feel like others may have a very different experience with this book, especially those with a particular interest in that era of music. It may be an issue with me as a reader rather than the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Kanakia

    This book is bananas! I’m so pleased it exists and really impressed it works. It’s the kind of book where if you described it to someone they’d kind of look askance and be like huh? But it works! Both Gala and the Brian W figure are endearingly human and very different from each other. And it’s a truism but what carries the story is Gala’s cunning, human, very wise voice. She is full of feelings and compassion, you kind of just want to be her friends! I also adored Rhonda and Caroline—it’s actua This book is bananas! I’m so pleased it exists and really impressed it works. It’s the kind of book where if you described it to someone they’d kind of look askance and be like huh? But it works! Both Gala and the Brian W figure are endearingly human and very different from each other. And it’s a truism but what carries the story is Gala’s cunning, human, very wise voice. She is full of feelings and compassion, you kind of just want to be her friends! I also adored Rhonda and Caroline—it’s actually kind of rare for me to remember characters names, but I do here. It’s the kind of book that you’ll just remember for years. The kind that will become a cult classic. I can’t overstate how ambitious and singular the book is. Also, as a trans woman, I’d be remiss in saying I really identified with these characters and their struggles, and it’s just kinda nice to see yourself in a book! But obviously most people who buy the book won’t be trans ;)

  9. 4 out of 5

    McKenzie Wark

    Loved it. I grew up on 60s surf music and one strand of the book is a lovely evocation of that era, and asks what it would be like for a trans woman to survive in that world. That story is bracketed by a trans woman in the 2000s who has an obsession with a certain sixties surf band. That part has one of the best accounts in fiction I've seen of the difficult friendships trans women make with each other when nobody else will have us in their lives. Moving and revealing. Loved it. I grew up on 60s surf music and one strand of the book is a lovely evocation of that era, and asks what it would be like for a trans woman to survive in that world. That story is bracketed by a trans woman in the 2000s who has an obsession with a certain sixties surf band. That part has one of the best accounts in fiction I've seen of the difficult friendships trans women make with each other when nobody else will have us in their lives. Moving and revealing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maya

    Opaque, intelligent, breathless, beautiful. The omniscient first person is a unique achievement. Also, this book may hold the record for most bathing/soaking/swimming in anything I've ever read. Opaque, intelligent, breathless, beautiful. The omniscient first person is a unique achievement. Also, this book may hold the record for most bathing/soaking/swimming in anything I've ever read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Carter

    In Lewis Shiner's Glimpses, a man magically gains the ability to imagine music that his favorite classic rock bands might have made but never did. The narrator's fantasies of unrecorded songs by The Doors or The Beach Boys are so vivid that they begin playing out of his stereo until he finally records them to tape and preserves them for history. Jeanne Thornton has the same magical ability to create parallel realities in her new novel, Summer Fun. But in Summer Fun, the unreleased recordings blas In Lewis Shiner's Glimpses, a man magically gains the ability to imagine music that his favorite classic rock bands might have made but never did. The narrator's fantasies of unrecorded songs by The Doors or The Beach Boys are so vivid that they begin playing out of his stereo until he finally records them to tape and preserves them for history. Jeanne Thornton has the same magical ability to create parallel realities in her new novel, Summer Fun. But in Summer Fun, the unreleased recordings blasting through speakers are played by a band that never existed (at least until now): The Get Happies. Gala, the Get Happies' biggest fan, works at a hostel in Truth or Consequences, NM for room and board. Her life is lived through her languorous letters to B—, a rock & roll icon whose band has long since broken up. Through her incredible one-sided correspondence with B—, Gala paints a gorgeous portrait of herself and a long, secret history that is both real and unreal. Summer Fun is a book about what it means to write a letter to someone you love but will never meet. It's also about the self-discovery that unrequited love can bring: both joy and pain. Do you remember when you were a teenager and loved some stupid band so much that you felt like you knew everything about them, maybe even more than they did about themselves? If you've ever felt that way, you should read Summer Fun. And if you haven't? Then you should definitely read Summer Fun.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Genius work with the epistolary form and "you" as a trans pronoun, here constructed to pair both the intimate warmth of direct address and also the protagonist's remove/dissociation. SO GOOD! and painful, and complicated. Beautiful writing. Five stars, infinite hearts. Genius work with the epistolary form and "you" as a trans pronoun, here constructed to pair both the intimate warmth of direct address and also the protagonist's remove/dissociation. SO GOOD! and painful, and complicated. Beautiful writing. Five stars, infinite hearts.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jantine

    This sounded like such an amazing book! And it is, in a way. It sheds some light on things I - and many with me - have not experienced, and on many things I - and many others with me - have experienced (the being obsessed with a band comes so close!). It gets deep into relationships between people, and Gala's relationship with herself. The format was not for me, probably because as I said being obsessed with a band comes so close, and I clearly have some unfinished business with my own insecuriti This sounded like such an amazing book! And it is, in a way. It sheds some light on things I - and many with me - have not experienced, and on many things I - and many others with me - have experienced (the being obsessed with a band comes so close!). It gets deep into relationships between people, and Gala's relationship with herself. The format was not for me, probably because as I said being obsessed with a band comes so close, and I clearly have some unfinished business with my own insecurities feeling a kind of secondhand uncomfortableness from Gala writing those letters. That is totally on me, but also made that I could enjoy this book less. I want to thank Netgalley and Soho Press for the chance to read 'Summer Fun'.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Thornton

    Summer Fun is an outstanding novel, and Jeanne is an amazingly talented and inventive storyteller. All of her characters are real, believable and fully formed. I was fully engaged with them the whole way through. I highly recommend this wonderful novel.

  15. 4 out of 5

    MandM

    “Got keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happening” “Good Good Good Good vibrations She’s giving me excitation...” Exciting trans literature and a very original novel.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Georgette

    A dynamite read. Cannot wait to pass onto Bree.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Contains, sentence for sentence, some of the most arresting prose I've ever had the pleasure to read in a novel. I adored this book. Contains, sentence for sentence, some of the most arresting prose I've ever had the pleasure to read in a novel. I adored this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura Sackton

    Read my full review of this book here: https://booksandbakes.substack.com/p/... This book absolutely took my breath away. I loved everything about it. There is so much going on, I don't even know where to start. The structure is magical in this very specific way that I don't think I'll ever stop thinking about. The way Thornton essentially sets the book up as a conversation between two trans women living in different times...except it is way more complicated and magical than that. It took me a li Read my full review of this book here: https://booksandbakes.substack.com/p/... This book absolutely took my breath away. I loved everything about it. There is so much going on, I don't even know where to start. The structure is magical in this very specific way that I don't think I'll ever stop thinking about. The way Thornton essentially sets the book up as a conversation between two trans women living in different times...except it is way more complicated and magical than that. It took me a little bit to get into it, I read just a few pages a day for a week or so...and then I hit my stride and just could not look away, read the rest of it in a day. Really painful, beautiful, the characters are just...!!! So much about art and friendship and queer lineage (I feel like I'm always writing that phrase...it's one of my very favorite things to read about) and obsession and manifestation and memory. And such astute, funny, sharp observations about ordinary life. May get it together to write more later but this is something special. Content warnings: transphobia, transphobic violence, implied deadnaming (the name itself does not appear), abuse.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roz Milner

    A powerful work of fiction, Summer Fun is look at B——, leader of a Southern California band called The Get Happies, and while they bear more than a passing resemblance to a Famous Band, it’s less a fictional retelling than a meaningful commentary on fandom, self-expression, trans identity and the power of music. I liked it a lot - could barely put it down. It’s a moving, ultimately bittersweet tale, and Thornton’s prose is dreamy, creating a world that sucks the reader in and makes them feel B—— A powerful work of fiction, Summer Fun is look at B——, leader of a Southern California band called The Get Happies, and while they bear more than a passing resemblance to a Famous Band, it’s less a fictional retelling than a meaningful commentary on fandom, self-expression, trans identity and the power of music. I liked it a lot - could barely put it down. It’s a moving, ultimately bittersweet tale, and Thornton’s prose is dreamy, creating a world that sucks the reader in and makes them feel B—— as they go through the course of making hit singles and a lost classic record - and discovering themselves. Recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    "I am writing a teenage symphony to God,” Brian Wilson told a group of dinner guests in 1966, referring to SMiLE, a record he was working on that would be the follow-up to Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. It would become a tortured, legendary record that was discussed far more than it was actually heard; bootlegs were shared, rumors were spread, and it became the greatest rock ‘n’ roll record never made. Without the release of an actual album, the legend became a decades-long repository for imagina "I am writing a teenage symphony to God,” Brian Wilson told a group of dinner guests in 1966, referring to SMiLE, a record he was working on that would be the follow-up to Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. It would become a tortured, legendary record that was discussed far more than it was actually heard; bootlegs were shared, rumors were spread, and it became the greatest rock ‘n’ roll record never made. Without the release of an actual album, the legend became a decades-long repository for imagination, which is where Summer Fun (Soho Press) comes in. This incandescent new novel by Jeanne Thornton is about B—, the musical genius behind the 1960s surf-pop group The Get Happies, who reached a profound level of success and is toiling away on the unfinished opus, Summer Fun. The novel unfolds in a series of letters written to B— in 2009 by Gala, a young trans woman and super-fan living in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and working at a hostel with hot springs... READ MY INTERVIEW WITH JEANNE IN BOMB MAGAZINE HERE! https://bombmagazine.org/articles/jea...

  21. 4 out of 5

    sophie

    beautifully written, sardonic, warm. got a little lost in the weeds (/the beach boys) but i think i liked it. jeanne thornton so devastatingly captures that peculiar strand of trans-transphobia - the self-hatred, jealousy, disgust, and love u see reflected in others who are like yourself.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    This is one of those books where I randomly stumbled across the title, read the synopsis, and immediately ordered it all within the span of about five minutes. It's become a rarer and rarer occurrence where I just know I'll like something the second I see what it's about - and a more frequent occurrence to be let down (or at least less enthusiastic than I wanted to be) when I actually read it - but I am thrilled to say that this book absolutely delivered for me. It was such a delight to read, tr This is one of those books where I randomly stumbled across the title, read the synopsis, and immediately ordered it all within the span of about five minutes. It's become a rarer and rarer occurrence where I just know I'll like something the second I see what it's about - and a more frequent occurrence to be let down (or at least less enthusiastic than I wanted to be) when I actually read it - but I am thrilled to say that this book absolutely delivered for me. It was such a delight to read, truly. Maybe it's just a coincidence that they all happened to be published within a couple years, but there seems to be somewhat of a mini-trend lately in novels about fictional bands. The most obvious and popular example is probably Daisy Jones & The Six, which I wasn't crazy about. Another is Utopia Avenue, which is a lot weirder and more ambitious and I enjoyed a whole lot more. If we're drawing comparisons, this book falls somewhere in between the two on the scale of straightforwardness to surrealism. It stays pretty grounded most of the time, but there are also moments in which its characters - and, thus, the story - seem to momentarily succeed in transcending the reality of their circumstances, which allows the book to become so vibrantly, achingly human and so much more than a no-frills biography of a fake band. The sheer emotional potency of the reading experience is what easily skyrockets this to the top of the list of books I've read within this micro-genre. So there are two alternating narrative threads here. In the present day, there's Gala, a young trans woman working a dead-end job in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, who escapes her unspectacular daily existence by obsessing over a '60s band called the Get Happies. There's also an extensive account of the Get Happies' meteoric rise to success and then their eventual slow and sad dissolution into a band whose only resemblance to its former self is in the name. Both narratives are told in letters that Gala writes to the band's frontperson out of a sense of connection that becomes clearer over the course of the book. It's pretty obvious early on that both the Get Happies' history and sound are very heavily influenced by the Beach Boys, but as the novel unfolds, the story takes some refreshing twists and turns that may seem unexpected at first but soon begin to make complete sense. And all the while, your heart will be warmed only to be broken only to be warmed again only to be broken again, etc. I don't want to spoil anything beyond that, but I think, ultimately, this is an affirming book, despite the fact that there is no final moment of triumph for the characters in their journeys. They achieve small triumphs along the way, and though they may encounter obstacles that stall or even entirely halt their progress, preventing them from reaching full actualization of their most ideal selves, the final pages leave the reader with a sense of hope that even though it hasn't happened yet, it might still be achievable, or at least that if it isn't achievable for these particular characters, they are still helping to hold open the door for others. It's a really powerful story about the tireless pursuit of identity, but it's also one that's written with an often light and humorous touch, which I think makes it accessible for just about anyone, and I'm already thinking about how much I would love to read it again. (The minorest of minor quibbles: I felt like the Dear.../Love, Gala opening and closing to each chapter wasn't really necessary and sometimes seemed jarring. I think it could've been done away with entirely and the book would've read exactly the same, or, at least, it could've just been used for a couple chapters to establish that they were supposed to be letters and then phased out after that. But this is such a tiny, cosmetic detail that it had no meaningful impact on my enjoyment overall.)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    Summer Fun tells the story of Gala, a young transgender women that is obsessed with the 60's band, The Get Happies. She communicates with her favorite member B----- through a series of letters. In the letters, she tells what is happening in her life but also narrates B----'s life. This is where the book lost me. I really could not follow how Gala knew everything about B----, especially since a lot of the book was about the fact that B---'s life was a mystery. How did she know everything about B- Summer Fun tells the story of Gala, a young transgender women that is obsessed with the 60's band, The Get Happies. She communicates with her favorite member B----- through a series of letters. In the letters, she tells what is happening in her life but also narrates B----'s life. This is where the book lost me. I really could not follow how Gala knew everything about B----, especially since a lot of the book was about the fact that B---'s life was a mystery. How did she know everything about B---- then? And why was she just repeating B----'s life back to B'--? The narration of the book was kind of off and made it really difficult to follow. I was also very excited to read this book because I wanted to read a book that had a transgender main character to diversify my reading choices. I would proceed with caution in this book as the treatment of transgender individuals is harsh and traumatic. The violence is overwhelming which is something I was not expecting. This really looks like a fun and light book. It is NOT! It is heavy and a lot to handle. It ultimately left me sad and confused. I think that the book had three separate story lines that could have each been taken in a cool direction. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the direction that the book took when those three story lines were combined. Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin S.

    I loved this book so much. As a huge fan of music of the 60s and an avid devourer of any biopic of that era I just sunk so deep into this novel. It is so beautifully written. There's so much I want to say about this novel and so much is explored. Of course gender and sexual identity- it speaks of a time where to be ones true self could be considered a crime and any deviation beyond the heteronormative could be damaging to a person's career. It speaks to how society, especially in 60s America cel I loved this book so much. As a huge fan of music of the 60s and an avid devourer of any biopic of that era I just sunk so deep into this novel. It is so beautifully written. There's so much I want to say about this novel and so much is explored. Of course gender and sexual identity- it speaks of a time where to be ones true self could be considered a crime and any deviation beyond the heteronormative could be damaging to a person's career. It speaks to how society, especially in 60s America celebrated maleness which is tragic for both Diane and Mona. It also speaks to the generational pressures and the expectations from our parents, the toll of mental abuse, the intricacies of recording music- which is written so well it was like Thornton was in the studio, perched at the sound board. Also, I have to recognize Thornton's telling of the relationship between Caroline, Gala and Ronda. I had it in my mind that their story line would go a certain way and was so surprised by their own individual journeys. There's mysticism, there's references to the Donner Party, lots of pools lots of bathing, the transformative power and truth of water. For a book about a fictional band called The Get Happies, there is so much sadness, but beauty in the sadness. Gosh I really loved this book. Well done.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    3.5 stars! This book was not what I expected but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It is entirely told through letters from Gala, a trans women, who is writing to B—/Diane who is part of the 1960s band „The Get Happies“. I liked the the non-linear story telling (even though it felt confusing at times) and loved Thorntons beautiful writing. Summer fun explores themes like friendship, being (a) trans (woman), internalized transmisia and many more in a interesting and thought-provoking way. The letters mad 3.5 stars! This book was not what I expected but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It is entirely told through letters from Gala, a trans women, who is writing to B—/Diane who is part of the 1960s band „The Get Happies“. I liked the the non-linear story telling (even though it felt confusing at times) and loved Thorntons beautiful writing. Summer fun explores themes like friendship, being (a) trans (woman), internalized transmisia and many more in a interesting and thought-provoking way. The letters made it hard for me to connect to the characters at the beginning and at times I felt like as if I missed important details while I was trying to piece together the plot. I think I‘ll need/want to re-read it at some point because the story contains so much that I want to spend more time with it. The way Galas letters are written makes it feel like a conversation even though it‘s entirely one sided and that was brilliantly done in my opinion. Overall I enjoyed the book even though it was no easy read (please look up content warnings*) and think I might enjoy it even more after having read it a second time. *this review has a list: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... [This book was provided via Netgalley as an arc in exchange for an honest review.]

  26. 4 out of 5

    TimInCalifornia

    It’s the fall/winter of 2009 and Gala, the narrator, has an obsession with a ’60s era band. Through her one way letters to the person who fronted the band, the reader learns about the band’s inner workings and band leader’s life which are a mash-up of Captain Beefheart, The Freshies, and The Twyborn Affair. Add a dash of Beach Boys. This isn’t a book where I felt a visceral, intimate connection to any of the characters and I don’t know that many people will feel that. The characters are burdened It’s the fall/winter of 2009 and Gala, the narrator, has an obsession with a ’60s era band. Through her one way letters to the person who fronted the band, the reader learns about the band’s inner workings and band leader’s life which are a mash-up of Captain Beefheart, The Freshies, and The Twyborn Affair. Add a dash of Beach Boys. This isn’t a book where I felt a visceral, intimate connection to any of the characters and I don’t know that many people will feel that. The characters are burdened with internal conflict that’s not communicated or dealt with in healthy ways. Yet there’s something compelling about the people in this story. An animal magnetic force, or maybe magic, pulled me through to the end despite the non-linear storyline and the fractured relationships and the narrator’s apparent dissociative disorder. In the end, it’s a good book. Thornton is a good writer, her imagery is evocative. Not Summer and Not Fun but Good. Thank you #SohoPress and #Netgalley for the free ARC.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mary Robinson

    The prose of this book is so beautiful, but following the plot lines took some dedication at first. Once the non-linear, epistolary form became familiar, understanding the two timeliens told by Gala, the trans narrator became much more clear. Gala is a dedicated fan of recording stars, the Get Happies, who rose to stardom in the Sixties and dominated pop charts for years. The band does not release their final album, "Summer Fun" and rumors has long been a fascination with fans, including Gala. W The prose of this book is so beautiful, but following the plot lines took some dedication at first. Once the non-linear, epistolary form became familiar, understanding the two timeliens told by Gala, the trans narrator became much more clear. Gala is a dedicated fan of recording stars, the Get Happies, who rose to stardom in the Sixties and dominated pop charts for years. The band does not release their final album, "Summer Fun" and rumors has long been a fascination with fans, including Gala. When she meets a woman connected to a song writer of the band, they become obsessed with finding the family of the Get Happys and finding more about what happened to the band and its members. Again, the writting is just beautiful: descriptive and evocative. The plot is engaging and involvng. Highly recommend.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Absolutely wonderful. Heavily influenced by Brian Wilson's hiatus from The Beach Boys, a young trans woman writes to, and tells the reader the (imagined?) story of, the songwriter from a 60s band, whom we learn disappeared from public life due to struggles with her gender identity and relationships (familial and romantic). The current day trans protagonist magically summons the granddaughter and inheritor of the writing royalties, and they themselves engage in a romantic relationship and search Absolutely wonderful. Heavily influenced by Brian Wilson's hiatus from The Beach Boys, a young trans woman writes to, and tells the reader the (imagined?) story of, the songwriter from a 60s band, whom we learn disappeared from public life due to struggles with her gender identity and relationships (familial and romantic). The current day trans protagonist magically summons the granddaughter and inheritor of the writing royalties, and they themselves engage in a romantic relationship and search for the missing artist. The writing is glorious and the story gripping. Came highly recommended by Torrey Peters and did not disappoint.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Randy Rasa

    This was a very strange work, an epistolary novel written from the perspective of a contemporary trans woman to a 1960s trans rock star of a Beach Boys-style group. At first, I was more interested in the contemporary story, and didn't care at all about the historical story. Eventually, I enjoyed both timelines, even though I never quite comprehended the connections between the current and past stories. There is some beautiful and evocative writing here, but the story just never quite came togeth This was a very strange work, an epistolary novel written from the perspective of a contemporary trans woman to a 1960s trans rock star of a Beach Boys-style group. At first, I was more interested in the contemporary story, and didn't care at all about the historical story. Eventually, I enjoyed both timelines, even though I never quite comprehended the connections between the current and past stories. There is some beautiful and evocative writing here, but the story just never quite came together for me.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    I had the pleasure of meeting Jeanne Thornton at the Bowery Poetry Club where she read part of one chapter about a Game Night gone wrong. What I didn't know from hearing that wickedly funny excerpt is that this novel has an ingenious structure: a series of letters written by an obsessed fan to the leader of her favorite band (modeled after The Beach Boys). As epistolary novels go, this one goes beyond the confessional as it also examines our complex relationships to our pop star idols. So much m I had the pleasure of meeting Jeanne Thornton at the Bowery Poetry Club where she read part of one chapter about a Game Night gone wrong. What I didn't know from hearing that wickedly funny excerpt is that this novel has an ingenious structure: a series of letters written by an obsessed fan to the leader of her favorite band (modeled after The Beach Boys). As epistolary novels go, this one goes beyond the confessional as it also examines our complex relationships to our pop star idols. So much more than "fun, fun, fun."

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