Today’s review is about SUMMER OF THE CICADAS by Chelsea Catherine. It’s a novella-length soft horror story about a cicada “invasion,” confronting loss, and becoming a leader.
Author: Chelsea Catherine
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Publish Date: August 18, 2020
Print Length: 160
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Summer of the Cicadas is about a West Virginian town where a brood of Magicicadas emerges for the first time in seventeen years. The cicadas damage crops and trees, and swarm locals. Jessica, a former cop whose entire family was killed in a car crash two years earlier, is deputized during the crisis. Throughout the book, Jessica must deal with her feelings for her sister’s best friend, Natasha, who is a town council member. After Fish and Wildlife removes the swarm, Jessica must also confront the two-year anniversary of her family’s death, Natasha’s budding romance with a local editor, as well as a sudden but devastating loss that changes everything.
Admittedly, I bought SUMMER OF THE CICADAS because it has a cicada on the cover. And in 2020 northern Virginia and parts of Maryland experienced the emergence of the Brood X 17-year cycle cicadas. If you like bugs, it was incredibly fascinating to see so many cicadas literally everywhere. If you don’t like bugs, it was your hell. I’m in camp “love bugs,” so I picked this book up for its inclusion of cicadas in the plot.
Unfortunately, I felt that the cicada part of the story had a tenuous connection to the character plot of confronting loss. It felt kind of like the author wanted to incorporate the 17-year cicadas and, to do so, used them as a loose character development catalyst. I think the small town crisis of these cicadas causing damage and attacking humans was supposed to show Jessica that she is a leader. That her actions done in grief don’t define her.
But I had a hard time suspending the fact that cicadas generally aren’t harmful to trees or humans. Sure, trees might lose some smaller branches, but cicadas don’t turn entire trees to muck. And to flip that upside down and add a pseudo-horror element didn’t quite work for me. I know this is fiction, but I don’t believe that Fish and Wildlife can remove a swarm of cicadas. If it was that simple we wouldn’t have lantern flies invading the east coast of the U.S.
Science and nature aside, the writing style was good and the plot was easy to understand. I think it shows decently the stage of grief that is avoidance. Additionally, this is an LGBTQ+ story as Jessica pines after her close friend. So it lightly wrestles with wanting a relationship with someone that won’t ever happen. But, overall, this story just didn’t do much for me, personally. It wasn’t bad and it held my interest, but it’s not something I’ll revisit. Simply, others might connect better with this book than I did, so don’t be completely put off by my subjective reading experience.
Content warnings: mention of family death, mention of past drug use
Reading format: Paperback