Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What we're reading: Summer romance


What I Thought Was True, by Huntley Fitzpatrick, is a nice example of that group of books about the townies vs. the preppies, the year-round residents vs. the summer folk, the have-nots vs. the haves, and the boundary-crossing love affair that inevitably results--in short, a summer romance in a beach town. But it's a bit more than that--there is actually an in-depth story here, that includes more than boy-meets-girl.

This one is set on a fictional east coast island (a lot like Nantucket), and is told from the point of view of a daughter of the island--her mother is the rich people's cleaning lady, her father runs the local fried clams shack, her grandfather was, in his day, the "yard boy" for the big houses on the shore, and her cousin is part of the paint-and-refurbish crew. She herself has worked every summer until this one in her father's restaurant, but this summer she lucked into a job as a "minder" for Mrs. E., an elderly lady from among the summer visitors who has broken her ankle and suffered a concussion, and whose son wants her looked after by someone. His mother refuses to have round-the-clock nurses (too cranky, no fun), so Gwen is the compromise.

Gwen is conflicted about nearly everything. She has had bad experiences in the past with a crew of rich boys from the swim team, and so even though she is drawn to one of them (with whom she was friends back when they were eight years old), she tries to steer clear. But Cass, despite being one of the rich kids, is this year's "yard boy," because his father wants him to learn a valuable lesson over the summer, partly conceived of as punishment for his bad grades in English Lit and his pranks that got him and his friend Spence kicked out of their exclusive prep school and landed them at Gwen's high school for their junior year.

Since you know how these books go, Gwen will, of course, encounter him when he comes to mow her elderly lady's lawn, will be requested to tutor him on the finer points of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and will react to his charms when he offers to teach her younger brother (not autistic, but not quite regular either) how to swim. There's lots of on- and off-again, the usual massive misunderstandings, and some steamy scenes that make it best for older teens. But it's nicely written, and the characters are engaging and endearing. I liked the Portuguese flavor in Gwen's family, her cousin's and best friend's romance, and her quirky little brother with his stuffed crustacean.

Although some of the content is a little more frank than their books, if you are a fan of Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti, Jenny Han or Stephanie Perkins, you will like this book!



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