Samurai Summer is a YA novel by Ake Edwardson, three-time winner of the Swedish Crime Writers Academy for his Inspector Winter series for adults ( I recently read and reviewed Room No. 10). This is Edwardson's first YA novel; translator Per Carlsson also translates the Inspector Winter series.
The setting is Sweden in the 1960's. The novel doesn't state the time and place initially, so I was curious and a bit confused, but the hints eventually materialize.
Book Description: Looked at from the outside, the annual summer camp in the countryside might seem idyllic. But for Kenny, a boy with a Samurai's soul, it is no more than a prison camp, guarded by a sadistic woman who is sometimes helped by her terrifying adult son, Christian. Kenny and his "samurai" friends sneak out to the forest to build a secret castle that proves to be a needed compensation for the emotional deprivation each teen experiences at home. But when Kenny returns to camp, he befriends a female camper named Kerstin. She is a tall, fast-moving girl who is easy to talk to and begs to see the castle. But then suddenly she disappears, and Kenny realizes something terrible must have happened to her. Something that points to the old woman who runs the camp but even more so to her aberrant son.
There were a number of things I liked about this novel, although there were a few things that remained vague and a little unsatisfying. Very different style from Edwardson's adult series--Room 10 deals extensively with Winter's thought process; yet, except for the confusing time/place at the beginning, Samurai Summer is a quick read with an interesting protagonist in Kenny. Kenny and his friends' interest in the history and lifestyle of Samurai warriors seems fitting for their age and circumstances. Their fantasy allows them a sense of power over situations beyond their control--as all of the campers come from less than ideal home lives, financially and emotionally.
Young readers will enjoy this story that proves that adolescent fantasy can go a long way in helping confront the realities of life.
A Net Galley ARC/Amazon Children's Publishing.
YA/Mystery. publ. date June 25, 2013. ISBN-10: 1477816542