Book review: The Summer I Wasn’t Me, by Jessica Verdi

Verdi Summer I Wasnt MeVerdi, Jessica. The Summer I Wasn’t Me. Sourcebooks Fire, 2014. $9.99. 352p. PB. 9781402277887.

Six months ago, Lexi’s father died. Her mother, unable to deal with his death, is further pushed off the deep end when she discovers that Lexi is a lesbian. Believing that God must be punishing her, Lexi’s mom sends her daughter to New Horizons, an ex-gay camp, for the summer. Lexi, who will do anything to help her mom, agrees to go to the camp, guaranteed to “say goodbye to homosexuality.” Preparing for the worst, Lexi happily realizes that all the girls there are lesbians as well (yippee!) and one she meets, Carolyn, is really beautiful!

Author Jessica Verdi takes a well-meaning Lexi and drops her into a truly cringe-worthy environment. New Horizons offers a world where nature is manicured to perfection (ha!), where girls must wear pink and boys must wear blue (ugh!), and where nearly everything, including the director, makes readers queasy. In the midst of this horrific setting, Verdi organically allows friendships to grow, realizations to develop, and truths to be told. In addition, she brilliantly succeeds in making The Great Gatsby a character as Lexi and Carolyn interpret passages and covertly exchange notes in the margins of the book.

The Summer I Wasn’t Me is not for the faint of heart; some of the stories shared, as well as some of the events in the book, are truly awful. While it’s a hard read, the book offers a powerful story that will have teens talking. Pair this work with copies of The Great Gatsby and readers will want to determine if Nick is really in love with Gatsby…

Ruth Compton, Youth Services Librarian
Arlington County Public Library (VA)

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