Jedi Summer with the Magnetic Kid
That I would read not one but two coming-of-age books this summer is beyond rare.
That those books would BOTH be dark fiction coming-of-age stories is pure unicorn territory. They just don’t come along very often, Deadies.
You can find my review of Mongrels on this blog. The latest is Jedi Summer: with the Magnetic Kid, the semi-autobiographical short novel by author John Boden. If you’re a fan of Stranger Things (and why in the world wouldn’t you be?) you’ll love the nostalgic vibe of this book. Set in 1983, in the weeks before the release of Return of the Jedi, the story follows a teen boy and his little brother (nicknamed the Magnetic Kid) and their middle class existence in a tiny Pennsylvania town.
While the boys’ recently-divorced mother works two jobs to support her struggling family, older brother Johnnie is caught between surrendering a part of his childhood in order to look out for his little brother, while dreaming of and working toward a future as a famous author, just like his hero – Stephen King.
Without saying a word, author Boden hints at that dream being dashed on the rocks of adulthood. Having already given up a portion of his childhood to adult responsibility, the notion is doubly heartbreaking. And yet, there is promise here as well, the promise that young Johnnie’s future may not be so bad, despite his discovery of a body hanging in a tree, and his gut feeling that a mysterious supernatural force is to blame – not only for the murder (the body’s stomach is bursting with coins, the chest hollowed out into a grisly birdhouse) but also for his family’s seemingly endless misfortune.
Jedi Summer is a quick, fun trip back in time, with a story that lingers on your mind long after you’ve put it down. Even if you weren’t a child of the 80’s, you’ll enjoy the story, and the reasons behind it. The fact that you were ever a kid is the only ticket required here.
With the exception of the nostalgia, which is as thick and delicious as the retro lasagna of Stranger Things, Jedi Summer is a tapestry painted in subtle, ghostly strokes. It’s about surrender and acceptance. About regret, and retribution. As screwed-up as young Johnnie’s world can be, in the end there isn’t anything he would do to live there again for just one more day. Back when the movie theaters held the most magic, even though we now know that, despite the magic, there was always darkness at our feet.