BookBrowse Reviews Raven Summer by David Almond

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Raven Summer

by David Almond

Raven Summer by David Almond X
Raven Summer by David Almond
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2009, 208 pages
    Sep 2011, 208 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

Buy This Book

About this Book



A poetic novel for young adults about the power of imagination in the face of violence and war, from the author of Skellig

My friend's son and a group of his friends were playing a war game on the school playground, using sticks for guns. In the middle of the game, a teacher came running over to them. Game over, she said. Don't you know you aren't allowed to play war here? What do you think these are? she said, snatching the sticks up into the air. One boy was brave enough to respond. They're sticks, he said. And then he got braver. They're not real guns, he said, we know that. Do you?

This question of what is real and what is imaginary is at the heart of David Almond's stark and poetic novel, Raven Summer. Liam Lynch lives in remote, seemingly quiet Northumberland, England, but war is not so far away. Jets heading for Iraq fly overhead and there is a story of a reporter being held hostage in Baghdad - war is literally in the air. During the life-changing summer in which this story takes place, Liam breathes all of this war in as he plays the games that any boy might play: football, pretend war games, and a sort of glorified hide-and-seek called Spotlight.

Raven Summer begins dramatically, with Liam finding an abandoned baby. Soon thereafter he meets Crystal, a wild-spirited foster child, and Oliver, a Liberian refugee who is also in foster care. Crystal calls Liam's life "normal," but Almond's rendering of his life turns that notion of normal upside down. Liam's father spends all of his time holed up in his office writing fiction while Liam's mother has begun showing photographs of Liam's cuts and bruises in an art gallery. And Gordon Nattrass, Liam's childhood friend, bullies and provokes violence in other kids, especially Liam. As Liam's life entwines with Crystal's and Oliver's, the intersection of these new relationships with his everyday life and boyhood games evokes the novel's most startling explorations.

"If you can imagine doing something, then you can do it," says Liam's father. The human mind is not guarded by a stone wall or a sound-proof sheet of glass. It is penetrable. It is moldable. It is malleable. What the mind believes is real one day might be challenged the next. And in the mind of a child - well, this is all the more true. At the heart of Raven Summer is this question of what is real and what is imaginary, but Almond pulls apart the heart and reveals its fragile, tender interior. How do children separate what is real and what is imagined? If something imaginary provokes something real, does that make the imaginary thing real too? Are children born innocent and does the landscape upon which they grow create their violence? Or are we born with violence inherently coursing through our veins? Crystal says, "Any one of us could be a murderer if they got us early enough. The murderer in all of us is just below the skin." Is she right?

By skillfully and intentionally layering Raven Summer with multiple through lines - the orphan baby, Oliver and Crystal's escape, Nattress' bullying, Liam's parents' art, and Liam's coming of age - David Almond creates a stunning portrait of what war and violence can do to the heart, mind, and body of a child.

So, sticks are sticks and guns are guns. That much is clear. Or is it?

This book is well suited to young adult readers, ages 12 and up.

David Almond's latest novel My Name is Mina, published in the USA in October 2011.

Reviewed by Tamara Smith

This review was originally published in February 2010, and has been updated for the September 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Symbolism of Ravens

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    A hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Graybar Hotel
    by Curtis Dawkins
    We – those of us on the outside – are lucky. So very lucky. We get to experience life &#...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.