It’s 1979 and fifteen-year-old Ronny and his pals are all virgins. In fact, they’ve rarely spoken to real, live females. That all changes when Mary Ellen comes to town. Ronny and his friends, six-fingered Melv and mutton-chopped Butch, are charmed by the Texas girl who is staying with her aunt for the summer.
Mary Ellen, a year older than the boys, is beautiful and confident—two things the boys are not—and seemingly out of their league. She befriends the trio who find themselves tumbling over each other for her affections, all the while doing what they do best: fishing for lunkers, catching frogs, evading the cops, and jamming to seventies rock anthems.
Ronny appears to be winning the race, and falls the hardest for Mary Ellen. Their relationship blossoms as the summer progresses, but Ronny begins to suspect everything is not as it seems. His suspicions are confirmed the day after Mary Ellen leaves town when Ronny learns of a gut-wrenching deception. And later, he’ll discover an even greater surprise.
Happy Release Day!
Now this book is outside of my usual wheelhouse, as I’m sure you can gather from the synopsis. So please take that into account when you see my rating of the book.
What the synopsis doesn’t tell us is that this book is very centred around fishing. As in, most of the book is about a bunch of teenage boys going fishing all summer, it’s idyllic and entertaining an’ all but it doesn’t really tie in with your expectations based on the book’s description. As one would expect from a book about teenage boys in the 70s, this story entails a healthy quantity of dick jokes (it is called Pecker Tracks, after all), staring boobs and setting fire to farts.
In my opinion, the romance element takes a back seat to the storyline of boyhood hijinks. It’s not sensational enough a plot element to drive the story forward it’s more of a ‘here’s a thing that happened’ which keeps the story along its pleasantly meandering course. This is a lazy Sunday of a book rather than my usual Friday night vampire massacre read.
Dees’ writing style is impressive and he brings to life that whole last-summer-of-childhood feeling, though I feel like he’s made the classic debut author move and put in too much detail. I know the expression ‘killing your darlings’ applies to just this situation – you love every single word you’ve written and got everything just right, but then those damn readers go and think that you’ve put in too much. You can feel the author’s passion for the things that he writes about, especially the fishing and small town living.
If you’re looking for a feel good nostalgia read, particularly if you’re a die-hard fishing fan, pick up this book!