Monday, November 18, 2013

What I Thought Was True

Bear with me, guys. It's a long review. But this book was so good, I had to tell you at the beginning.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Pages: 415
Keywords: seaside, family, friendship, love
Format Read: ARC from author in exchange for honest review (she also sent me some lovely bookmarks and a post-card with My Life Next Door on it, and upon finishing the book, I promptly went out and bought that one. This one was that good.)

Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

I just want it to be clear how big of a book hangover I'm going to have for the next period of time. I'm still so invested and attached to everything and everyone in this book. Okay, I can move on now.

There are so many things I want to say, but I think I'll start with the characters. First we have Gwen. She's the MC, and there's a whole lot of stuff going on with her. But it was all great. To start with, she has a reputation in the town as a "swim team tradition." Which starts the story off differently than a lot — there was no instant love connection from across the room. And I loved it. There was already a lot of tension between Gwen and Cass (the MC's love interest), and it just grew as the book progressed. Now let's talk about Cass. Love the name. Loved the guy. I mean, he pissed me off a few times, but I'm aware that's what Fitzpatrick was going for. But as far as love interests go? This one was pretty great.

I loved their interactions and their interactions with their friends — it was always super awkward and uncomfortable and I loved it. About their jobs — those were equally excellent in regards to how the story worked. Cass was the summer yard-boy, aka rich-kid turned outside help who rarely wore a shirt and did a lot of heavy lifting. Gwen was the caretaker for an elderly woman who was one of the summer residents on the island, aka, the super rich group that just paid all the locals to do their stuff for them.

Side characters were amazing. Gwen's family was ridiculous. We had Mom, who really loved romance erotica novels. There was Emory, her 8-year-old brother who wasn't a typically developing child, wasn't autistic, but needed help growing up. Then we have Nic, Gwen's cousin, who was a swimmer, also lived with them, and was dating Gwen's best friend Vivien. My favorite, though, was Grandpa Ben. Known for his wife-beater tanktops and plaid bathrobe, he had a hobby of illegally catching lobsters to eat, watching old movies with Emory, and appearing and saying things at precisely the wrong (aka the BEST) moment, sometimes spitting out portuguese. There was a scene where Cass came over for tutoring lessons, and I was literally laughing so hard in the student union building, I'm sure people thought I was crazy.

Aside from the basics like outstanding characters and a great plot line for them to work in, this book reinforced what I love about young adult fiction. So many people ask me, "Why YA? You could be reading classics!" I want to A.) smack those people. and B.) Give them books like this one.

"I finally get that sometimes we hold on to something—a person, a resentment, a regret, an idea of who we are—because we don't know what to reach for next. That what we've done before is what we have to do again. That there are only re-dos and no do-overs."

This is such a pivotal time in everyone's life. Young adults can love, hate, feel, grow, learn, and do anything just as well, if not better, than adults. And that's what these books, this one in particular, bring to the forefront. That teens do know what's going on, they do struggle with major life decisions, and they do matter when it comes to paying attention to issues like this. Another major point in the book was the division between the rich summer tourists and the locals, who felt like they were there to basically serve the others. Gwen felt it constantly, always feeling distant from Cass and his friends when they drove BMWs and threw large parties at fancy, decorated and coordinated homes. Not only did she feel outcast, her family did as well. They kept reinforcing that the people she was working for and the people they worked for had their own stories, and that their lives were too far separated for her to be involved or to try to get involved. 

And then there was the issue of locals that wanted to get out of the town, like Nic, who dreamed of being admitted to the CoastGuard Academy and having adventures all over the world. There were others, like his friend Hoop, who were happy where they were, and Gwen wondered if he was destined to stay the way he was forever, stuck in the same town, the same life for the rest of his days.

And my favorite — not knowing where life is going or what you want to do in life. This is one of, if not the most important issue, young people struggle with. And it doesn't end. The fact is that life is terrifying, and Fitzpatrick so clearly expressed that through each character's individual personality. They all had their own spotlights and were featured when their questions were brought to the front of the plot. 

To round it all out, little details Fitzpatrick threw in amazed me. Clench. Unclench. 
Everything was absolutely stunning, and so much more than a breezy beachy novel I assumed it was going to be. 

Read When: NOW. 

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