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A Delirious Summer
Author: Ray Blackston 
Publisher: Revell Press 
Length: 333 pages (est.) 

Following on the heels of his successful debut beach reader of a novel in Flabbergasted, Ray Blackston has released its sequel A Delirious Summer just in time for the summer reading season.    Similar in style and plot to the first novel, A Delirious Summer picks up roughly a year after the the events of Flabbergasted

For those unfamiliar with Blackston’s previous work, here is the Cliff Notes version.  Flabbergasted chronicled the summer of new Greenville, South Carolina resident Jay Jarvis, who in the span of one summer found God, pursued a woman, almost died, and wound up as a missionary in South America.  Of course, the ending is happy. 

A Delirious Summer features Jay, but largely as a background accessory.  This time around we have twenty-nine year old Neil as our narrator.  Neil happens to be Jay’s language instructor in Ecuador.  A wandering spirit of sorts, Neil has bounced around the world  and wound up as a missionary in Ecuador.  As he has an eight-week furlough coming up, new friend Jay convinces him to go to South Carolina, where he will be sure to meet women.  Since Neil has been luckless in the date department as of late, he decides to heed Jay’s advice.  Of course as readers of Flabbergasted know, ol’ Greenville, SC can be a wacky place (which leads the reader to believe just how much of a friend Jay really is). 

A Delirious Summer then shifts from the jungle of Ecuador to the steamy summer of South Carolina as Neil encounters the gang from the previous novel.  Rooming with Jay’s bland former housemate Steve (who thankfully receives scant attention in the book), he proceeds to make good on his borderline-obsessive goal to meet the local Christian woman population.  He quickly commits the number-one cardinal sin of Christian dating and blithely plunges headlong into the Bermuda triangle of best friends: amazon Darcy, real-estate agent Alexis, and the ever annoying Lydia.  Somehow, despite not being aware of the maxim that states you never, ever date Christian female best friends at the same time, he manages to bumble, Inspector Clouseau-style, into the motherlode.   Securing three dates in less than a week, the hilarity ensues as Neil attempts to figure out these women and find his true love before his furlough ends. 

A Delirious Summer is essentially a retelling of Flabbergasted, only with a different, more interesting narrator and a more concentrated focus on two minor characters in the last book:  Darcy and Alexis.  Neil, as the first-person narrator, is amusing in his bewilderment as he tries to understand the uniquely bizarre world of the Christian singles scene.  Even more perplexing to him is trying to figure out the women.  He is most mystified by Alexis, who for whatever reason has an eyebrow piercing that Neil just cannot get over.  It must be assumed that an eyebrow piercing to a Christian single is somehow akin to someone having a full-body tattoo to the rest of the world.  That said, he is intrigued by her mysteriousness. 

What we figure out soon enough is the characters of A Delirious Summer are sort of a Christianized version of the cast of Friends. They are cute and funny and perky and struggle with problems like having their hubcaps stolen, but trying to find any real depth to them is a fruitless task for sure.  Blackston tries to give some complexity to Darcy near the end of the book, but I find her hard to take seriously.  As for Alexis, she just doesn’t strike me as mysterious—a little trendy maybe—but not mysterious. 

Neil, despite his one-track mindset of looking for women,  is the one character who exhibits some profound traits.  Of course, when you have no other perspective but his, you cannot help but get to know the guy. 

Disappointingly, this book suffers from the one fatal flaw that did in _Flabbergasted_.  The first two-thirds of the novel skip by briskly and quite enjoyably.  But, like the last book, the heavy spiritual stuff is laid on at the end as we return to the jungle where wise mentors instruct young Neil in what to do about his feelings for his now-girlfriend Alexis.  Yadda, Yadda, yadda, yadda…something about tangelos and standing on rooftops and praying.   Thankfully, it all ends before it becomes too unbearable. 

Despite the stumble at the end, A Delirious Summer marks a growth in the writing style of Blackston.  He has a good feel for telling a story and interjects his humor and obvious knowledge of the evangelical singles culture.  He is also coming into his own in finding the style that works for him—a sign of a maturing writer. 

If you do not think too deeply about the plot, you’ll enjoy this book. It is meant to be a beach reader and should not be treated as anything but that.   It is a good idea to bring _Flabbergasted_ along to read beforehand as it will help you get a better grasp of  those wacky, spouse-seeking Christian singles! 

This is a good effort from Blackston  and definitely recommended reading for naïve missionaries who are coming back to America to find a woman. 

Noel Lloyd 5/26/2004
 

Ray Blackston seems to have hit on a winning formula with A Delirious Summer, the sequel to his first novel, Flabbergasted : write what you know.The book and its characters spend their time mainly in two areas-­Greeneville, South Carolina, and the jungles of Ecuador.  The author himself spent a great deal of time in both areas, and the writing here gives the indication that this humorous novel is at least somewhat autobiographical.

The story in a nutshell: our couple from Flabbergasted is still together in Ecuador.  Jay Jarvis’ language teacher, Neil Rucker, is sorely in need for R&R.  Jay arranges for him to spend his furlough in Greeneville, where Jay had met his girlfriend Allie.  Rucker warms to the idea, if for no other reason than there are single women there.

Neil ends up focusing on three candidates: Lydia, the very demanding, strict redhead, the blonde obsessed with the color “lime”, Darcy, and the slightly dangerous brunette, Alexis.  After much trial and error (Lydia stands him up, Darcy likes Neil’s roommate ­ or does she?), Neil and Alexis begin dating and heading for the perils new relationships bring.

Much of the ensuing material is familiar to readers of the first book-­the male not having a clue about what women want, the hesitation on both sides, the advice from friends.  We witness a lot of romantic comedy stylings that have been done ad infinitum in movies, but Blackston keeps it light enough not to drive away the male readership, with a little humor mixed in.

The entire gang unites around a crisis in Ecuador.  Neil is nominated to lead a group there die to his familiarity with the location.  While doing work there, he is reunited with an old friend and mentor who gives him, Jay, and Steve, the erstwhile roommate of both, advice on romance.  What will they end up doing?  You’ll have to read the book…

A Delirious Summer is entertaining, while not overly heavy on theological issues.  The plot twist at times seem a little too convenient, but that doesn’t detract from the overall story.  This is light reading, a beach or airplane novel that will allow you to pass some time pleasantly, and possibly will draw a chuckle or two as well.

Brian A. Smith
23 June 2004


 

 

 
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