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