Publisher/Year: Sourcebooks Fire- April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: My Life After Now
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!
Lexi’s mom is already hanging on by a thread and things at home aren’t so great and Lexi fears they are going to get even worse now that her mom has found out her secret (she’s gay). In hopes to fix things, Lexi agrees to go to New Horizons camp — a camp that promises to completely change her and “take the gay out of her — in hopes that she can save what family she has left and start all over…until she realizes it’s not that simple.
I’m so conflicted on this one honestly. I appreciated things about it but it kind of fell apart for me personally and I seemed to lack some really important connection to the characters even though I really felt for them and found their stories to be compelling.
1. I’m a sucker for absolutely unique premises and this fit the bill there: A camp to “de-gay” teens? That alone piqued my interest and it delivered because I was horrified with this camp with every page I turned — ridiculous outfits, whacked ideas of gender roles, outrageous rules and therapy that will make your mouth drop. Then you add in a forbidden attraction and the fact that the main character, Lexi, is only doing this FOR her mother and it just really become a book you couldn’t put down and gives you a lot to think about and grapple with! Lexi’s inward rejection of New Horizon’s is so, so compelling because on the outside she’s just trying to do this for her mom and is trying to do what she’s told but you feel that knife to the heart with some of the things she has to go through that deny and reject who she is at her core, who she loves and things she believes. You feel how hard that struggle is and what a real struggle it is for people to hide who they really are.
2. Things were going so well but then towards the end I was a little less than thrilled (no spoilers!): So, even though this camp is horrifying and there really is this really thought-provoking and heavy undertone to it all, the story also is lighthearted in some ways with friendships and romance. Lexi is pretty skeptical of all this and we get her snarky sort of outlook on it all and we get to know the 3 other people in her group and their attitudes and reasons for doing it. There’s rebellion and then there’s absolute adherence to the program and they are all trying to wrestle with it all with their variety of reasons for being there. It’s interesting and really deep/dark but there’s also this, like I said, sort of softer side to it all — this joyful sort of love and friendship. It’s a good mix! But then this THING happens and it’s a big thing and I was okay with the shift in the story towards this super serious, awful thing…but then I hated hated hated how it was handled. Like SO put off. I don’t want to get TOO into it for spoiler reasons but just know that. I didn’t feel any urgency in places with the characters re: this thing + I felt like the resolution of it left way more to be desired. We can do spoilers in the comments if you’ve read (label ’em por favor!).
3. While I appreciated the characters, I never got THAT feeling: I really liked Lexi and admired her. I liked how well her struggle to please her mom with becoming straight vs. knowing what felt right in her heart was portrayed. It was heartwarming but I never felt like I got into the SOUL of Lexi in the way I do other characters so I never really felt moved. And that’s important to me personally as a reader. I felt for her but it never went beyond that. And while some of the other characters in this novel were interesting and showed different sides and reasons for being at this camp, I felt like a lot of them were caricatures to me.
Man, as compelling as The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi was the whole way through with its intriguing premise and how it delivered on that, there was just some essential ingredient missing to make have a bigger impact on me. It gave me a lot to think on and really explored some interesting issues that are so relevant but ultimately the characters just straddled the line between cardboard and alive for me and I had some issues with a THING that happened near the end and the handling of the said thing. While it’s a really good story that captures that spirit of loving yourself for who you are and accepting it despite what others may want for you, I just wanted MORE from it.
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it? Am I the only one bothered by the ending because all I saw was rave reviews so I don’t know if I’m alone here!