Monday, March 10, 2014

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

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Review: The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi
The Summer I Wasn't Me
Jessica Verdi
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: April 1st 2014
by Sourcebooks Fire

Lexi has a secret…

Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen-year-old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good.

You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way.

The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi—she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feelings is harder than she thinks. And when she falls heads over heels for one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what.
-A copy was provided by Raincoast Books for review-

The Summer I Wasn’t Me takes us into a religious de-gaying camp where Lexi is sent after her mother finds her journal. Not only is this story an important one in this day and age, especially for teenagers, but it’s written with wonderfully crafted characters that bring just the right amount of heart to the book.

“The activity for the day is Avoiding Satanic Influences.”

I found myself amused at times, frustrated at others, and utterly pissed off at this camp’s cult-like methods. I rarely feel this enraged towards fictional characters – it’s fiction after all – but knowing that camps like this really do exist makes me want to throw things. Now I’m not religious at all, so maybe that plays into it, but I honestly do not understand how this mindset towards homosexuality still exists. With a cost of 9,500$ (I’m truly hoping this is not accurate O_O), Lexi arrives at this camp where she’s forced to wear only pink and girly things, where she’s told that homosexuality is a disease (like alcoholism) that often originates from a traumatic childhood event, where she’s taught the “correct” gender roles. They then go through extreme exercises that are all kinds of wrong, in addition to camp rules that basically change who they are so that they trained into “proper females”. GAH! Can I punch someone now? The whole camp: the brainwashing, the manipulating, the charismatic and domineering leader; it all bears close resemblance to a religious cult, making the reading experience quite unnerving.

“If New Horizons is, like Kaylee said, the tool God gave me to create a better life, I’m pretty sure I’m using it wrong.”

Lexi was, thankfully, realistic throughout this ordeal. She could discern between right and wrong and was not easily swayed by the ridiculous exercises. She did keep an open mind, though, and made a respectable effort, wondering if it could really work, which I completely respect. After her father’s death she would do anything to keep her and her mother from falling apart. I loved how real she was as an individual. She knew her style, knew who she was, that she deserved to be happy, and took risks for what she wanted. The side characters were also compelling and diverse. We have the shy believer, the skeptic, and the atheist. Matthew was easily my favorite with his outspoken rants and sense of humor. I also adored Carolyn who brings in a fun-loving personality in addition to possible romantic developments. The amount of hate I still have towards the camp workers, especially the leader, is another sign of good character building if you ask me. The leader itself might have been written to extreme at times, though, with somewhat clichéd characteristics that made him predictable. Similarly, some plot devices used were not exactly necessary and more for shock value or dramatic effect.

Accepting yourself for who you are is not always easy as a teenager, and it can be particularly hard for some who find themselves in a confusing situation like Lexi. I love this book for approaching a delicate subject, and for putting into question a school of thought that is, unfortunately, still adopted by some. Verdi is clearly an author to watch out for!

4 Stars
4 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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25 Responses to “Review: The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi”

  1. Siiri

    lols, I just don’t know how these camps exist. Like wtf? Seriously? This is just wrong on so many levels. Yeah, I could respect her open mindness. Like, you’d be a fool to believe in anything 100% and not ever doubt, but still stay true to who you are and if there is a possibility you could be proven wrong? That’s totally okay. I really, really doubt one could be proven wrong with being gay though O.o especially in a way like this. Ha, Aman also loved Matthew and Carolyn. I don’t mind the shock-value thing if it’s done.. idk.. naturally, I guess? If it like.. goes with the flow instead of just being there added randomly and not making much sense. I can’t wait to read this:)
    Siiri recently posted…Review: The Destiny of Violet and Luke by Jessica SorensenMy Profile

  2. Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

    I’m very excited for this one, Giselle! I don’t read a lot of LGBT, which is one of the reasons why I’m trying to read more from that genre this year. Also, I’m a religious person, but I don’t see what’s wrong with homosexuality. I do have a gay uncle and know a few gay people from the neighborhood, and I have pretty good relationships with them. I can’t wait to read this one, despite how harsh the camp sounds! Lovely review. 🙂
    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings recently posted…Review: Ask Again Later by Liz CzukasMy Profile

  3. Amy @ The Reading Realm

    I can’t believe there are actually camps like this, I just can’t comprehend that. I can see how you would feel so angry towards the camp workers and their actions. It’s good to hear the characterization is strong, because in a book like this, the characters would need to feel real and not like typical stereotypes. This sounds like a really powerful story!
    Amy @ The Reading Realm recently posted…{Review} Inbetween by Tara FullerMy Profile

  4. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    Oh wow, I didn’t know the book went in that direction. That camp sounds like serious rubbish. But I kind of get annoyed at books that present religion in that way…I mean, not ALL religion is like that (and the kind that is, is definitely a cult and sucks badly). Still, I’m tempted to read this. I mean 4 espressos (btw, I love coffee…measuring a book in coffee is about the most ingenious thing of ever)…I need to try it. 😉
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Top Ten Favourite DystopiansMy Profile

  5. Pili

    I think I really need to read this book, even if I’m gonna be enraged at the camp and the idea that you can “pray the gay away” thing… I cannot understand why we keep on thinking being gay is wrong when it just means loving someone and not hurting anyone else… And since I’m an atheist, the extreme religious groups that preach crap like that enrage me even more…
    Still, a 4 espresso book is one that I need to check!
    Great review Giselle!
    Pili recently posted…Mark This Book Monday: ARC Review of The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain!!My Profile

  6. Rashika

    So I’ve seen this book going around and I know people have been loving it. I haven’t read a lot of GLBT but this one really intrigues me, ESPECIALLY after reading your review. I mean if a female lead can survive all that and not turn into a character I will dislike, I am pretty sure this is a book to be on the lookout for.

    Lovely review, Giselle!! 🙂

  7. Faye @ The Social Potato

    De-gaying camp? That’s highly concerning 🙁 Like some, I’m kind-of a religious and spiritual person, but I have absolutely no qualms regarding homosexuality. Before anyone’s sexual preferences, they are humans first and foremost and should be treated as such, and it pains me to no end of the continuous discrimination being given towards them.

    With that out of my system, I loved your review. It really seems like the author wrote about this controversial topic (which shouldn’t be controversial in the first place, but alas, society 😐 ) very intricately and meticulously. I really need to get my hands on this as soon as it’s out!
    Faye @ The Social Potato recently posted…ARC Review: A World Without Princes by Soman ChainaniMy Profile

  8. Maya

    Urgh, I’m not sure I could read this simply because that ‘de-gaying camp’ would just frustrate the hell out of me. People can be such bigoted idiots sometimes, but I won’t go off on a rant about the human condition just now 😉 Lexi sounds like a really great character though, so maybe I’ll have a look out for this. Thanks for the review, Giselle!
    Maya recently posted…REVIEW: Trouble by Non PrattMy Profile

  9. Laura Plus Books

    I’m so excited about this one now! I really really want to read it because I need to read more LGBT. I’ve been seeing it around a few different blogs and it’s one of the books that have been nominated for the LGBT Month read-a-long in April. You should check it out! I’m hosting it with Fighting Dreamer for April and I’d love to have you and Jenni on board. 😀

    LGBT Month
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…Stacking The Shelves #30: Half Bad Diamond SistersMy Profile