Published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 1st, 2014
Genres: contemporary, young adult
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Lexi has a secret. She never meant for her mom to find out. And now she's afraid that what's left of her family is going to fall apart for good. Lexi knows she can fix everything. She can change. She can learn to like boys. New Horizons summer camp has promised to transform her life, and there's nothing she wants more than to start over. But sometimes love has its own path...
There was literally only one thing I liked about this book, and that’s the premise. The Summer I Wasn’t Me promised to confront me with a point of view that I’ve never readily been open to before. I try pretty hard to avoid the pray-the-gay-away people – at all costs. So of course I was intrigued by the idea of a protagonist being sent to of the “de-gayifying” camps. So I will give credit where credit is due – this was a unique novel in that regard, and I did appreciate that it wasn’t preachy in any way. However, everything else about this book was absolutely awful, from the characters to the writing.
First, I’m so very tired of being told and not shown. Lexi was supposed to be torn apart from her father’s death, and desperate to repair the damaged relationship with her mother. So desperate that she would willingly go to an anti-gay camp to learn how to become straight. But I never felt that connection to her mother or her desperation to fix it. I was just told. Also, Lexi is supposed to be creative – I guess she wants to be a fashion designer – but there was nothing creative about her at all. The biggest thing was her silver shorts. That is literally the only thing that was unique or interesting about her – a pair of frigging shorts.
Lexi was so boring and so bland. She really could have been anyone and it wouldn’t have mattered. At first I just didn’t care about her, but after her really shitty decisions, I grew to hate her. First of all, there are TWO instances of insta-love in this story. She “falls in love” with two different girls within seconds of laying eyes on them. She even got a fucking tattoo to represent the first girl! (The tattoo was a lightning bolt, and seriously, I have never read so many instances of the same fucking lightning metaphor.) And with another girl, it was like two making out sessions and suddenly they are “in love.” Puke. They knew nothing about each other except for the fact that they were trying to become straight. WTFFFFF?? ??
A few months ago, I read another book by this same author, My Life After Now, a novel about a teenage girl who is diagnosed with HIV. As with My Life After Now, I felt that The Summer I Wasn’t Me missed out on its potential. I fear that the author simply isn’t skilled enough to tackle the issues she tried to write about. The heroine of MLAN was raised by two gay men, but didn’t know anything about HIV/AIDS. And now, in TSIWM, I found a lot of the same amateur mistakes. There were seriously fucked up things happening at this camp – child abuse and sexual abuse – but they were never given the respect and honesty they deserved. When Lexi’s friend becomes prey to a child molester, she is too busy worrying about her crush on Carolyn to really think about what was happening around her. And instead of stepping in and helping her friend, she just listened from the other side of the wall.
I can’t express how much this entire thing pissed me off. A boy was sexually harassed by an authoritative figure, and then was subjected to an “exorcism” wherein he was beaten by a grown man until he vomited and passed out from the pain. Lexi did NOTHING. All she did was make a phone call to the local police DAYS later and gives them some “statement.” This serious issue was so fucking undercooked as to be completely disrespectful.
Finally, I have to address the relationship between Lexi and her mother. Her mom sent her to a pray-the-gay-away camp and paid ten grand to do so. She was so disgusted by her daughter that she SENT HER AWAY. But then, a few short weeks later, after Lexi is expelled from the camp, her mom is suddenly all smiles and cheer and a-okay with everything. This does not ring true and does nothing for the urgency that had already been lacking in the beginning of the novel.
In short, The Summer I Wasn’t Me was a hot fucking mess. Undercooked ideas; amateurish writing; flat, personality-less characters; and a disrespectful lack of depth when dealing with abuse left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I have not had success previously with this author and so now I will head into her novels with more trepidation.