There’s something about coming-of-age stories that resonate with the child we used to be. The nostalgic longing for a simpler time allows us, just for a little while, to escape the often maddening grownup world we live in. When a writer is able to balance that nostalgia with a clear eye, avoiding romanticizing or demonizing the past, you’ve got something special indeed.
That’s what John Boden has done with Jedi Summer with the Magnetic Kid. He’s offered us a clear view to a simpler time which wasn’t without its own complications, but it isn’t a bitter, depressing tale either. It’s simply what it is: a story about childhood, a time which can never be again.
It’s the summer of 1983, and Johnny and his little brother Roscoe are bopping their way through summer, as kids do. Of course, Johnny and Roscoe don’t necessarily live the apple-pie American life, nor is their summer a perfect golden one in a mythical country town in Illinois, where new tennis shoes are magic. With their mother working two jobs to make ends meet, Johnny and Roscoe have to make their own brand of magic, and they do it with the innocent resilience found only in the young.
The story’s voice rings true, and you get the idea Boden has put more than imagination and thought into this story; he’s bled into it, too. There’s also some nice weirdness lurking around the corners of the main story. Ghost pets, a corpse hanging from a tree with birds living in its belly, and a still-born calf, because childhood is weird, and kids know it with an acceptance which puts most of us adults to shame. This is a perfect summer read for those of us who remember when were kids, and we accepted life as weird, too.