Review and Q & A: The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel!

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*Copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review*

“It’s hard not to fall in love with the only blanket in winter.”

This book was a massive blow to my existence. It sucked me dry from everything that was good in me and left me with all the bad. I had to take a weekend off reading to try and let my body heal from what this story did to me. I cried nonstop from the last half of the book throughout the entire weekend after it. I was on a mission to watch everything and anything funny but it didn’t work at all. This book sits heavy on my shoulders, and on my soul. What makes this even more unbelievable to process was that this is a debut novel. Tiffany’s writing, in my opinion, is too sophisticated to be considered one. The imagery she uses in this novel was outstanding. I felt like I was physically in the middle of the small town of Breathed, thanks to the wonderful talent of Tiffany’s. Every single word on the page had it’s own remarkable purpose and I saw so many double meanings, it was insane.
We follow our main character, Fielding, a 13-year-old boy as he reminisces about “The Summer that Melted Everything.” We follow him as he meets an African American boy his age, who claims to be the Devil, named Sal. We are left to witness everything that tore their innocence too early into their lives. The conversations they had, especially Sal, were so incredible and deep for boys. I can’t even begin to count the amount of quotes I highlighted while reading. I wrote down quite a few and that’s saying something since I only write one or two for reviews. The events that these beautiful boys had to go through were impossible to stomach. I wanted to look away so bad and let my mind go to a happy place, but unfortunately, this wasn’t a movie. We witness a small town that is completely changed… all because of the unexpected presence of a 13-year-old boy.

“Why, upon hearing the word devil, did I just imagine the monster?… A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.”

The premise to this novel is THE most unique thing I have ever read. I knew I was in for quite a story but I never knew just how morbid and comfortless the story line was. I have been bent and broken to an overwhelming capacity before but I usually find something in the story to smile about and be happy of a positive outcome. I bounce back. But this one… It made me give up a huge part of me. This book was so heavy, I was actually suffocating under it. Unlike the other stories, I have no reason to smile after this. This book makes you explore the darkest corners of your mind and I couldn’t get out of it no matter how hard I tried. I should’ve known since the story was ominous from the very beginning.
This story was brutal, blunt, gruesome, and delivered an array of incredibly powerful messages. The blows never stopped coming and we get to see just how far some people would go to outrun their darkness. The most terrifying thing about this story, and there are A LOT, is the fact that these things DO happen and have happened in real life. There’s no way to escape it unless the individuals actually try to, and in the end, we’re left witnessing the consequences when they choose not to. It makes you feel completely and utterly helpless.

“Yes. Breathed was the scar of paradise lost, and beneath the flour-and-butter drawl, there was the town’s own fort of sibilant hiss on the wind, which made you quiet and made you sense snakes.”

The only thing I have on the con category was that it was a little slow to get into. But my god, how I wish that would’ve been a problem throughout the entire story so I could’ve saved myself so much grief and heartache. But instead I had to go out and fall in love with the characters in need of falling in love with and detesting the characters that needed detesting. I had to go out and care infinitely about their success and failures only to be torn to shreds when it didn’t go my-their- way. Every single character was well thought out and felt as real as me. I grew to appreciate every single one of them, no matter how horrible I found them to be.
This is the first time where I’m having second thoughts about recommending a book like this. I want to recommend it until my last breath but then I would have to deal with the fact that I just told someone to experience the same thing that completely drained me for days after it. If you’re in a dark place in life, I suggest you put this on hold until you’re able to dive in without the worry of being destroyed beyond recognition. I am scared beyond belief of what else Tiffany has to offer but that won’t stop me from reading it all. I have been turned into a massive fan of Tiffany’s and I am forever grateful for been given the opportunity to be.

“I am not the ruler of hell. I am merely its first and most famous sufferer turned custodian with the key to the gate in my back pocket.”
If I really have to rate this… I give it 10/5 stars.


Q & A with the author

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1) What sparked the premise behind “The Summer that Melted Everything”?

It first started as a title.  It was one of those Ohio summers that was hot and heavy and I just felt like I was melting into a puddle of myself on the green summer grass.  So that’s how it all started.  I do always begin a new novel with two things.  The title and the first line.  These two things lead the entire rest of the story.  So while I never set out to write about the devil, the first line really determined that I would write about heaven and hell, horns and halos, and all the sparks in between.

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2) Are any of your characters based on a real person?

As I’m writing the characters and I get to that certain point in their development they become very real.  Their lives are concrete in ways that all our lives are.  They have their own hearts, minds, and spirits even.  They exist and in that they are truly their own people. 

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3) This was far from an easy story to read due to the impacting events, so I would only think that writing it wasn’t any easier. How difficult was it for you to immerse yourself to be in the right mindset for this story?

I’ve always said I’m drawn to the crash, not the landing.  I want to explore the wreckage, the broken fragments, the things that which were once whole and are now scattered upon the ground.  I never have that urge to stop or turn away because to me these moments that test us emotionally are moments we’re closest to the truth of our own infinite selves. 

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4) Will we see any of these characters in your future works?

That’s an interesting question because possibly.  Breathed, Ohio has been the town I’ve used in all my novels thus far (I have eight completed novels and am working on my ninth).  So the town is there and these people are there, so perhaps these characters will make an appearance, if only a brief nod to their own novel and story. 

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5) While writing, who did you grow most attached to, besides our main character?

Grand.  I really loved that guy.  Maybe because I’ve always wanted an older brother, but Grand is the older brother we all want.  That kind soul who is the hero in blue jeans.  The one come to answer your call to help.  But more than that, he so easily gives love.  That’s his promise he always keeps. 

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6) What can we expect from you in the future? Anything you’re able to disclose?

The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is titled, When Lions Stood as Men.  It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and end up in my land of Ohio.  Struggling with the guilt of surviving the Holocaust, they create their own camp of judgment.  Being both the guards and the prisoners, they punish themselves not only for surviving, but for the sins they know they cannot help but commit.

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7) I believe I have received the message behind this story. But for those that aren’t so sure, is there something you would like for your readers to take away from it?

To preserve individual thought.  To not allow yourself to be swept up in that herd mentality.  More than that, we must remember to love each other.  That sounds like a cliché but as Autopsy says in the novel, the more holes we dig, the less solid ground any of us will have to stand on.

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8) What was the most challenging part of the story you had to write?

I didn’t find anything in this novel challenging, actually.  One of the things I had to pay attention to was describing the heat.  Heat is a character itself in the novel, so it was all about describing sweat in a way so it didn’t get repetitive.   The heat was a character that needed its own character development.  It needed to be subtle, but also needed to be something the reader recognized throughout the course of the story.   

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9) How long was the process from the spark of thought to publishing date?

I wrote The Summer that Melted Everything in a month.  So the writing isn’t the time-consuming part for me.  It’s the getting published.  I should say that while The Summer that Melted Everything is my debut and my first published novel, it’s actually the fifth or sixth novel I’ve written.  I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen and wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine.  It’s the narrative a lot of authors have and that narrative is that it can take years to get a foot in the publishing door.  It took me eleven years.  What surprised me was that even with a deal from the publishing house, it takes on average two years to move a book through the house.  In our fast-paced world, publishing still moves at a snail’s pace unfortunately.  So with all the years added up I will have been waiting thirteen years to see a book on the shelf.  July 26th will be very special indeed. 

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10) Was there a lot of research that needed be done to tell this story?

I don’t usually do a lot of research.  I do enough to get a general understanding of the time, which in this case was the 1980’s.  I was born in 1985 so I don’t know how the decade really was.  I needed to do research about the major highlights of the decade.  What music was popular.  Which TV shows and films people were watching and what fashion was being worn.  I also had to research the AIDS epidemic and how that disease was casting its shadow on the decade.

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11) What was your favorite part of creating the story?

I loved it all.  I really did.  My time spent with this novel was just a really wonderful experience.  It was a great honor spending time with these characters.  Even when it was sad and tragic, there was nowhere else I wanted to be but right there in that summer with them, right there in all the things that were melting.  

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