Review: The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Why I chose this book: At the beginning of this year I promised myself I would read more LGBT oriented books. I saw this book pop up in several conversations between book bloggers, so my interest was piqued. Furthermore, I already felt for the book, as I know many LGBTQ identifying people who come from religious backgrounds. I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 





The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: April 1, 2014
Format: Netgalley ARC
Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ, Realistic Fiction
Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound 

Synopsis:
Lexi has a secret.
She never meant for her mom to find out. And now she's afraid that what's left of her family is going to fall apart for good.

Lexi knows she can fix everything. She can change. She can learn to like boys. New Horizons summer camp has promised to transform her life, and there's nothing she wants more than to start over.

But sometimes love has its own path... (Goodreads)  


4 Things You Should Know:

1. Gender roles can sit down and take a number. I won’t lie, this book is heavy. It took me a long time to piece together what exactly I wanted to say because I was speechless after closing the cover. The one thing that stood out to me was the screwed up idea of gender roles in society. Jessica Verdi reflected this mindset and way of thinking through the camp New Horizons. Here, lesbian identifying girls are taught to be “ladies” by taking sewing lessons, learning homemaking skills, and forced to wear feminine skirts and pink sweaters. Likewise, gay identifying boys learn to play sports, fix cars, and other acceptable “masculine” activities. 

The distorted mindset is extended even further, as Lexi enters the camp for the first time. To reach the first group meeting, she is required to answer a series of questions that reinforces that idea that women exist solely to reproduce and provide for their husbands. While the idea is sickening on the outside, the reader is given the opportunity to understand the thoughts and feelings of Lexi as she endures these lessons. This makes the story heartbreaking on a whole new level as she fights to remain true to herself while trying to change for her mother. 

2. Jesus loves me? Since Lexi is at a “de-gayifying” camp, Jesus is obviously going to make an appearance. What I didn’t expect was for the character of Lexi to find common ground and not give up on her traditional roots. While this is a tricky subject to write about, Verdi flawlessly shows the good and bad of religion, allowing the reader to make their own choice on the matter. I always cringe when I read books that show Christian/religious characters as Bible thumping, loud mouthed, and ignorant. Observing that Lexi was able to see that black and white of religion was refreshing, seeing that she settled for grey was even better. Sometimes answers aren’t always clean cut. Sometimes they are grey and you simply have to trust your heart and take a leap of faith. In the words of Lexi, “Screw utopia. We make our own destinies.”  This unapologetic yet honest statement is something I definitely needed to read, and one I think would do others a lot of good. 

3. Sacrifice for love. One of the most heartbreaking themes of the book was the relationship between Lexi and her mother. Lexi tries to sacrifice who she is in order to keep her mother’s love. Watching this completely shattered me. Reading her story, along with the other stories that are woven in make you weep for the real life teens that face these struggles every day. While this book is a work of fiction, there was nothing fictitious about it. 

4. You are the product of your environment, but not the outcome. Each student in the camp is required to search for an “origin moment” where the seed of their homosexuality was planted. The campers are required to face that situation and change it through a series of disturbing roleplaying scenarios. The leader of the camp claims that this is what caused each of them to be gay. Each camper is a product of their environment.

Alongside this issue, each camper is dealing with a problem that is far more deeply rooted than at first glance. Molestation and abuse are topics that are openly discussed and reflected in the hearts of the campers. What I found most stunning was that each camper chose not to listen to the adults of the camp and become outcomes of their abuse. Homosexuality was not a product of their pain, and abuse is something that does not have to shape their future. Instead of shaking off their origin moment of homosexuality, the campers learn to shake off their origin moments of abuse and pain. There is always a light in the dark. 

Final Thoughts:

I loved this book. This book is probably one of my favorite reads of the year, and it is only February. I am anxious to see the reviews and awards that come in the future, because this book totally deserves it.

I gave this book 5 stars on my Goodreads


4 comments:

  1. Wow, I need to read this book. I had never heard of this one, so thank you so much for providing such a clear and thoughtfelt review.

    I am glad that this book ends up portraying religion in a manner that I am okay with, because as you said, some books show any religious character in an awful light, and is unfair. I love when books use their platform to suggest the grey area, because more people need to see that it does exist.

    I am so glad I read this review today, so thank you again! :)

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  2. Wow, I've read a few reviews here and there and the more I read about it the more messed up that "camp" sounds. Poor Lexi! I don't really like when religion makes an "appearance" in my book, but I'm glad to hear that Verdi handled the "issue" well. Great review! Can't wait to read the book myself :)

    Btw, you should link up your review (http://nijiclovers.blogspot.com/2014/04/lgbt-month-kick-offgiveaway-2014-ya.html) so other participants can visit you.
    And you can also enter it to the first Rafflecopter (if you want to try your luck at winning prizes :)

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  3. Thanks so much for pointing out that this book shows both sides of Christianity. I get a little nervous about books like this because I think that it's just going to make all Christians look bad. I'll have to check this one out!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  4. This book looks like a really enthralling read. Your review has really made me want to move it up my TBR list!!

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