What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Published: April 15, 2014 by Dial Books (Penguin)
Source: ARC on loan from a friend - thank you!
From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.
Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.
A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti. [goodreads]
If you know me, and this blog of mine, I have a special place in my heart for summer stories. It is, in fact, my most favorite season of the year, so naturally I gravitate towards novels that are told against the backdrop of this magical, yet realistic time in a character's life. Huntley Fitzpatrick won me over with her debut novel, My Life Next Door; it was among my favorites read in 2012. So when I discovered she'd be writing a new novel, set in the same world as her debut, but told through the eyes of a new character, I immediately added it to my to-be-read list and counted down the days. There's a feeling one gets while reading a Fitzpatrick book that I have come to recognize. She has the ability as a writer to place you in the setting of warm salty air, waves crashing along the shore line, and the feeling of life slowing down just a bit as the summer edges on. I welcomed this feeling as I began the story of Gwen, and the summer that changed so much in her world.
The island of Seashell, just off the New England coast, is populated in the summertime with the wealthy vacationers and the regulars who keep the island running. Gwen and her vibrant family live on Seashell island year round, so they understand their place in society. Her mother cleans houses, while her father runs a local beach food restaurant. It's a profession they've both acquired since they were young, and continued to follow through with. Gwen isn't so sure she wants the same for herself, with thoughts of life off-island circling her head all summer long. But when a boy from her past, a past she is so desperate to flee, makes a place for himself among the help on the island, she is forced to confront what she wants, while discovering who she truly is.
The setting for this story completely sucked me in. Fitzpatrick's words made it so easy to imagine the beautiful island of Seashell and all the quirks that only someone like Gwen, who has lived there her whole life, would appreciate. The distinction of classes in this small sleepy beach town was so interesting to read about, too. But it was the romance between Gwen and her upper class lawn boy, Cass, that kept me coming back for more. I love that these two characters share a past, and as the story unfolds, we see glimpses of what happened before, and how these two are reacting now because of it.
In true Fitzpatrick form, this story is not filled with just one element, but several different stories culminating into a rich, authentic, and unforgettable read. My heart swelled as the end came near, bursting with happiness, but tinged with a bit of sadness. I knew I had just encountered another outstanding read, yet a bit of gloom settled in because I wasn't quite ready to leave it all behind. Fitzpatrick writes the type of stories that make it difficult to put down, lingering in your mind long after you've finished that last page. She is, in my eyes, a favorite YA contemporary writer, one who understands and appreciates the essence of summertime and all its wonder. I highly recommend this new novel, and cannot wait to read it again!