Monday, March 10, 2014

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

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I received this book for free from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica VerdiThe Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 1st 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Raincoast Books
Buy on Amazon

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.

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 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. Mary @ BookSwarm

    WTF is wrong with people that they’d create a de-gaying camp (IRL)?? They need a de-bigoting/homophobe camp. I feel like I’d be gritting my teeth through this whole story! Poor Lexi.

  2. Alexia @ Adventures in Reading

    Normally I would have bypassed this book because of the religious aspect but seeing that it was written by Jessica Verdi, I knew I had to try it and oh my goodness I adored this book. I cried so much and SO freaking hard. With this book, she cemented her place on my auto-buy list.

  3. Sassy @ My Never Ending Pile

    Camps like this are so sad! I’m religious and really don’t understand the negative attitudes towards homosexuality – it’s who these people are, they can’t change it and shouldn’t have to. Great review 🙂

  4. Amanda @ Book Badger

    I’ve never heard of this book before and I’m ashamed, because although it sounds like it would really anger me and make me feel so annoyed about the whole premise, I think it’d be a very important read, and I really want to look out for it now. I’m glad you enjoyed this book as much as you did Giselle! 😀

  5. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    YAY! Mary @ BookSwarm. Ugh. Living in the south, I see this kind of attitude regularly, but it is absolutely despicable. Kudos to Jessica Verdi for spot-lighting a horrible prejudice that is being inflicted on more than just teenagers.

  6. 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:)

  7. Megan

    Wow, this one sounds so frustrating, but in a good way. I think I would want to throw things as well. Why is being gay still an issue?

  8. 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. 🙂

  9. Melliane

    I can understand why it upset you mainly when we know camp like that actually exist like you say. It sounds like an interesting story, I have a book in this genre I think but I haven’t read it, I think it’s a French author. I need to try it.

  10. 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!

  11. 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. 😉

  12. 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!

  13. 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!! 🙂

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. Rachel

    It’s nice to see you enjoyed a book that tacked such a serious issue. It sounds like these camp leaders would be hard to stomach! Wonderful review, Giselle! 🙂

  17. Allison

    OMG, THERE’S A DEGAYING CAMP! That’s just…that’s not right! Oh my gosh, this book seems pretty intense. I…I must add this book to my TBR pile! I love a level-headed narrator too 🙂 I probably will enjoy this book, if I can get over the anti-gay camp part.

  18. 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