Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Research Behind The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi + Giveaway!

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I’ve got  the lovely Jessica Verdi on the blog today to talk to us about her research process for The Summer I Wasn’t Me which has a premise involving a de-gaying camp. Also if you missed my review  you can read it here – I really enjoyed this one!

The Research Behind The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi + Giveaway!The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 1st 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
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.

Guest Post by Jessica Verdi

Research Process for The Summer I Wasn’t Me

Hi, Giselle! Thank you so much for having me on your blog and for the opportunity to talk a little bit about the research process for The Summer I Wasn’t Me!

This was a very research-heavy book, being that I personally have never been to a conversion camp. But because this world is so secretive, so purposefully hush-hush, there was only so much research I could do before hitting a brick wall. The things that go on at these camps are not only incredibly morally unethical, but emotionally (and often physically) abusive, and in many cases illegal. These kinds of programs have already been outlawed for youths in New Jersey and for all people, regardless of age, in California.

The bulk of my research consisted of doing a lot of technical research on so-called “reparative therapy” (the techniques and methods they use, the argument for the work, etc.), reading first hand accounts from people who have been to camps like these, and watching several documentaries. Every single “exercise” you see in the book came from research—I didn’t make any of that stuff up, including the horrifying events that happen (no spoilers!) in Chapter 29. In fact, one of the hardest parts of my research was watching YouTube videos of that very type of thing. It was extremely difficult to watch kids going through something like that, but I knew I owed it to the accuracy of the story to get every detail, even ones as awful as that, correct.

I was recently asked if I came across anything in my research that was just TOO much to put in the book, and I said no. Not that I didn’t come across some of the most terrible forms of abuse I’ve ever encountered, but I NEVER felt compelled to protect the people who run these programs, or downplay anything that happens there. This book was, from the beginning, going to be real and raw and honest—I’ve never had any interest in sugarcoating it.

The people in The Summer I Wasn’t Me of course are all fictional, and I made the physical setting up as well—the multiple cabin setup in the Virginia mountains felt right to me for the story, but I can’t be 100% sure of its accuracy. Basically after I did all the technical research, I let the characters and setting and story build up around it. It was interesting to be able to almost create a new world for this book, sort of like one would do when writing fantasy—the only difference being, sadly, these conversion programs are all too real.

About the Author

Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dog. Visit her at and follow her on Twitter @jessverdi.



Sourcebooks has generously offered one paperback copy of The Summer I Wasn’t Me for giveaway.

  • Open to US and Canada
  • Full contest terms and conditions found on Rafflecopter

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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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13 Responses to “The Research Behind The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi + Giveaway!”

  1. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    I cannot believe that there are actually de-gaying camps in the world, so this book was definitely an eye-opener for me. I love how Verdi decided to write about this, a very brave step.

    Thanks for sharing, Giselle! <33

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    That makes me sad to hear that conversion camps are actually real and are at times abusive towards the kids. I can’t believe that we’re in 2014 and there are still narrow-minded idiots in this world.
    It sounds like Jessica did a ton of research for this book. I tend to shy away from LGBT books because of how stereotypical they can be, but I’m going to give this a shot.
    Thanks for sharing, Giselle.

  3. Pili

    I can only imagine some of the very horrible and crazy things that might happen in those camps… I still cannot wrap my head around that they’re not declared illegal all over the US!

    Great feature and thank you to the author for this!

  4. Ginny @ Gin's Book Notes

    I am disgusted that there are actual camps like this. I like to imagine that we are progressing as a society and then I have my eyes opened to things like this. I would love to win a copy of this book but if I don’t I will definitely pick up a copy. Thanks for sharing Giselle and thanks to the Jessica for having the courage to take on a difficult subject and not protect those that run these type of programs. Good job!!!

  5. Christina R.

    It’s so awful these places exist – I don’t know how they even get people to work for them, let alone get parents to willingly send their kids there.

    Congrats to Jessica for writing such a relevant book 🙂

    Thank you 🙂

  6. Jenea @ Books Live Forever

    It is hard to imagine that a lot of people still think this way, and being gay is something that can be fixed. As a parent, I can’t even imagine sending my son or daughter to a place like this, it sounds just awful. I need to see if I can find this books and give it a try. Verdi sounds she really did some wonderful research for it. Thanks for sharing the guest post.

  7. Mary @ BookSwarm

    It’s pretty horrifying to me that camps like this even exist. Let kids find their own way. Leave them to develop into the humans they’re meant to be. Who cares who they love, as long as they’re happy, healthy, good people!

  8. Laura Plus Books

    I’ve always really wanted to read this one. Especially since I’m hosting LGBT Month but I guess I’ve been a little scared. I’ve been reading really light books so I need to toughen up before I read this one. I just know it’s gonna be an emotional rollercoaster for me. Thank you so much for sharing! You’ve made me more sure that I need to read this one!

  9. SweetMarie83

    This is really interesting. When I was reading the book I wondered how much research had gone into it or whether it was completely fictional. I knew these places existed, but I’d hoped the horrific things that happened were just fiction. It makes me sick to think people actually go to these camps and suffer such abuse. I have so much respect for Jessica for writing this book.

  10. ShootingStarsMag

    It’s interesting to see how she did her research. I’ve heard of various camps and programs that are meant to make you “not gay” and it’s just awful, regardless of what they do there. The whole concept is horrible.

  11. Kay

    Wow, how eye-opening to discover that camps like these still exist. I like that the author didn’t hold back on the brutality; the entire story sounds like a very transforming read. I would LOVE to check it out. And the cover = Beautiful. <3