The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi
Published in 2014 by Sourcebooks
Rating: 3 Stars
Lexi is losing her family. After her father passed away from cancer, she started losing her mother, first to tears, then to the distant look that would come into her mother’s eyes.
So when her mother discovers of Lexi’s like of girls, and reacts very badly, Lexi feels she has no choice but to take the opportunity arranged for her, to attend a summer at New Horizons, a “reparative therapy” camp. Lexi hopes that if she can just fix herself, she can not only get her mother back, but she can also get over what happened with Zoë.
I grew up in a small town a lot like Lexi’s, where “gay” and “fag” were used as causal insults and no one seemed to think there was anything wrong with it. I sometimes wonder if things have changed since I left, and that wondering is exactly the reason books like this need to exist. If one child (or adult) reads this and is comforted, encouraged, bolstered, I would call the book an unqualified success.
Verdi concentrates the narrative on four of the campers, two boys and two girls, and through them shows a spectrum of way the pressures on LGBTQ kids to be “normal” can manifest themselves. The foursome are a delight both individually and collectively. Outside of those four, however, I did find the characters stuck a little too close to archetypes rather than being fleshed out as full characters.
On a personal note, I was slightly disappointed that Verdi didn’t find a way to include an adult Christian character that was also an ally of the LGBTQ community (or better yet, a member). Though I’m myself an atheist, many of my friends are able to imagine their God’s love is large enough to encompass all God’s children. I wish that perspective had found a larger part in the book, though I understand how the structure of the story made that difficult.
The Summer I Wasn’t Me combines the horror of reparative therapy with the headiness of first love to create a sweet and satisfying book that nevertheless draws questions out of the reader.
The cover: I feel like I’m missing something, as I don’t understand what the objects on the cover are, let alone their significance. Though it’s well laid out, the title is what made me pick up this book, not the cover.
What to read next: The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (for older readers)
Other bookselling notes: Great for anyone looking to reinvent themselves. Sometimes there no reinvention necessary.