What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

15832932Novel: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick | Goodreads
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher:
Dial (Penguin Random House)
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought

From the acclaimed author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. 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-you-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I didn’t have any negative expectations, but I wasn’t expecting it to wow me either. I enjoyed My Life Next Door and thought it was a great beach read, but I didn’t follow up on Huntley Fitzpatrick as somebody I consistently had to read. I read this book within two days, and it made me start pining for June and July, for the sticky-heat, swimming-type summer atmosphere this book demanded. This, while maintaining the sweet, summer feel of that, had a lot more substance in a way that actually wowed me.

The book hones in on an “islander” girl who lives year-round on Seashell, an island that caters to the summer families. She’s always spent summers working at her dad’s grill, but is relieved that she nabs a summer job with Mrs. Ellington – an elderly woman who needs a caretaker – instead. She’s planning on spending her summer on Seashell actually enjoying the island before she leaves, because she can’t wait to get off for college, and spending time with her big family. Her cousin Nic and her best friend Vivien are helplessly in love but she hasn’t had any of that: she’s only had her reputation from the previous year with Cassidy Somers. But when she sees that Cassidy’s also spending his summer on the island – and keeps “conveniently” running into her – her plans start to change.

Gwen had spunk. She had a personality that leapt off the page, but she wasn’t obnoxious. Instead, she carried a quiet sort of confidence, caring deeply about her family and friends in a way that was unassuming and all-encompassing. She was bold, and embarrassed herself, but she was observant in a way that made her blatantly likable. I loved how she was fierce but not overwhelming; she could banter with the guys but that wasn’t her main personality trait. She was a hard-worker and a thoughtful girl.

Cass, on the other hand, was obviously charming, but he wasn’t all crooked-smile, I-get-all-the-girls. It never came off as smarmy. He got jobs from his dad’s connections and he came from money – in other words, the type of guy who might treat an island girl like a fling for the summer instead of anything real. But at the same time, he liked maps and teaching little kids how to swim and wasn’t at all weird about Emory, Gwen’s challenged younger brother, climbing all over him and calling him “Superman.”

It was a good balance. Both could have easily slipped into genre tropes, but maintained enough diversity within themselves to feel fully-fleshed and mercurial. That same variation in personalities contributed to their clashes, their chemistry, and some of the best scenes in the book.

The romance was absolutely magnificent. At first, it’s composed mainly of flashbacks and tinges of regret. Cass and Gwen had gotten together the year before, and things had gotten messy, to the point where Gwen vowed to completely avoid him during the summer. That history they had kept things a little tangled, but they still had that first-date feeling that was adorable to read about. In My Life Next Door, it could get a little cloying but Gwen and Cass had enough conflict to keep things fresh and never too much. They challenged each other, and they had their ups and downs, and their banter, and it had a bittersweet edge that came from having been together before.

The book mainly focuses on the romance, but it’s not an overpowering element. There are several compelling sub-threads. For one, Gwen works for a vibrant ninety-year old woman, Mrs. Ellington, who gets her to read bawdy romance novels and take her for swims with her elderly friends. Mrs. Ellington’s son has his own issues going on, ones which absorb Gwen into questions of morality that she has to solve throughout the book.

Gwen’s family was engrossing in its entirety. Her parents are divorced – although she’s on good terms with both – and she lives with her Portugese grandfather, mother, little brother, and cousins. Her little brother has some mental issues – not autistic, but they could never quite figure it out – and needs constant supervision. Her cousin and her best friend, Viv, have been dating her entire life and now deal with questions of marriage and their combined future together. Her mother and father work consuming jobs and Gwen’s sick of the discrimination the islanders receive from the summer families who visit. Her determination to take care of them while forging her own path came off as authentic and heartwarming.

All in all, the book does a really great job of balancing that. The pacing is solid; the summer scenes are indulgent, but still realistic in the sense that I want to gather together a ton of friends and go do the things that they do in the book – kayak, bridge-jump, have barbecues. The overall effect reminds me of authors like Morgan Matson and Jenny Han who consistently produce “beach reads” with substance.

I love love loved this one. I’m definitely going to pass it on to the girls who always ask me for beach reads, and I’m definitely going to reread it in the future.

Recommended for anybody who loves: Since You’ve Been Gone; Open Road Summer; Endless Summeretc,.

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April Book Club

It’s Grace, a few days late to do a recap of April’s book club at the Oxford Exchange.

I love love love book club. I love the conversation – and highly encourage you to come if you like what you’ve read – and love to write about it afterwards. The tea and the people are pretty great too, and there’s just nothing more I love than being around people who want to talk about the books we read, or the thoughts we have that relate to them. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this before, I was asked by my local indie bookstores, the Oxford Exchange and Inkwood Books, to run teen-based book clubs. You can read my original announcements and explanations here and here.

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Last month, we read For Whom the Bell Tolls – which admittedly I STILL haven’t finished (I’m about halfway through, and if you’ve read the book, you know it still gave me a lot to talk about) – and I absolutely loved it. March was a really great book club, even though it was after prom and we were all a little tired!

Despite my absolute adoration for my regulars, we’ve had some new faces recently which is so refreshing and rewarding! It makes me so happy when people come in – whether they’re people I know trying it out for the first time or people who simply heard about it through Oxford. It makes me a little nervous because admittedly, I’m a people-pleaser and want everyone to love talking about the book as much as I do, but the past few months’ book clubs have gone really well and I couldn’t be happier.

April book club was a little nerve-wracking for another reason: it was the end of lacrosse season and I didn’t even start the book until the morning of book club. I had another prom the night before and realized at the dance that hey, book club’s tomorrow. We chose Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, which I already had in paperback. I had read about halfway through it before, but I had never finished the book just because I never had the time.

So Sunday morning, I camped out in my bed and simply read. It’d been ages since I’d done that: simply stayed in bed and read until I finished a book, but I devoured Franny and Zooey so quickly. It was a book that left me changed. I did the same thing with The Catcher in the Ryea one-sitting book, and both left me in absolute awe of Salinger’s writing ability and how thought-provoking each characters’ mental breakdowns were. Those books made me think.

When I got to book club, we were absolutely spoiled by the Tea for Tots leftovers. Because we have book club right after, we get the leftover tea and sandwiches, and we had such a bounty. This month, we had these yummy almond-butter sandwiches and macaroons and four different types of tea. I felt absolutely spoiled.

We had more newbies this month, one of whom I chatted with for ages before the conversation started. We always start out with a cheesy, round-table style introduction (name-school-favorite-book-if-you-have-one) and it’s always fun, especially as you get to know people who come. I love the variety of people we have: the kids I know from my school, the kids from the IB program, the kids who commute from St. Pete. It’s definitely an interesting mix, and people have such fascinating perspective. One of my friends stubbornly insists on being flat-out in love with Zooey, who I actually couldn’t stand. So it differs, and we have good talk, and it’s such a glorious hour or so of conversation.

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This month, the book was fantastic and the people were wonderful and I had such a good time. We hesitantly nailed down a title to start off the summer (The Bell Jaranybody?) and I told them about next month’s book The Hound of the BaskervillesI’ve already read it thanks to eighth grade English but it’s a great book and a perfect introduction to the classic Sherlock Holmes for those who haven’t previously been exposed.

If you’re a teen around the area, I would LOVE to host you at book club. I love meeting new people – and talking books with them – and although we have a steadfast group of regulars, we’re really welcoming to new perspectives and have a different mix of people every time. The conversation flows from the book of the month to other books we’re excited about to deep/personal conversations and back again depending on the month, and the ability everybody has to relate literature to their lives is truly fascinating to me.

I don’t have the flyer yet – our rocking social media girl, Sarah, recently switched up the template and it’s BEAUTIFUL, but not in my hands yet. But if you’re interested in book club next month, I still have all the information! Hint: If you buy the book of the month through OE, you get a discount on the pretty paperbacks we have in right now. Book club is actually the day after I get back from BookExpo America (!!!), so I bet we’ll have a lot to talk about. I’ll post the flyer here (as well as on my social media accounts) when I get it and post continual reminders.

Teen Classics Book Club

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle | Goodreads
May 31, 2015 at 3 P.M.
Commerce Club, Oxford Exchange
Free – tea and treats may be provided

Happy reading!

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