I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers on April 15th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.
What I Thought Was True is lovely, just lovely. It’s like a warm, fluffy blanket I want to wrap myself up in and snuggle with all day. If solidly written, adorable contemporary romances featuring sassy female leads are your thing, you should probably drop everything and go get your hands on a copy. The characters are fabulously relate-able, the scene-setting is subtle but pervasive and the plot is grounded and real. It’s a winner all around and I wish it had hands so I could give it the high five it so richly deserves.
Gwen is fantastic, she’s smart and holds her own while still being realistic and flawed in ways I (mostly) sympathize with. She flips back and forth between cool and awkward in a continual and deeply familiar cycle. Sometimes she’s totally out of her element, sometimes she manages to get in a well-targeted zinger. She’s an everygirl in the broadest sense of the word. She worries about the future, her family, her friends. She wants the people she loves to be happy and also do what’s right for her, even if she doesn’t know exactly what that is yet. She isn’t prefect, she has a tendency to leap to conclusions and stubbornly plant her feet and stay there, but overall I would be her friend in a heartbeat.
Huntley Fitzpatrick is amazing when it comes to submerging you in her stories, they are instantly real and vibrant in a way few authors pull off. From the first chapter I had a clear picture of Gwen in my head and by page 63 I wanted to elbow my way into her tight-knit best friend trio and was full-on in lust with Cass, her smooth and charming on the outside, squashy and marshmallowy on the inside boy-of-significance (not a boyfriend, but a person of interest) (person of interest in a literal way, not a suspect-in-a-homicide kind of way) (love interest, if we’re being technical).
Also worth mentioning: Mrs. Ellington, the old woman Gwen spends her summer mentoring. Mrs. E (I call her Mrs. E because we’re tight like that) is so fabulously badass if she were real I’d be banging on her door right now demanding she adopt me. I can only hope that when I’m 80 I have a circle of friends like Mrs E and her crew who sit around and make the 17 year old companion girl read the sexy bits of erotica out loud multiple times while we try and figure out whether or not they are logistically possible.
You want to know what my absolute most favorite thing about this book was? (Obviously you do because you are here reading this), how thoughtfully and realistically this book addressed sex. In my experience with YA, sex is generally either not mentioned, not something the characters are doing or it’s a significant and/or culminating plot point of a book/ship/character arc. In What I Thought Was True sex is kind of just there as part of the characters’ experience, they aren’t necessarily having it, but it’s a thing that happens. It’s both significant and merely part of the wallpaper of their lives and I appreciated the all-encompassing approach. It was a lot more relate-able and familiar for me than many of the other contemporaries I’ve read (to be fair, contemporary is a genre I’ve only recently begun reading more of).
There are also casual references to using condoms and being on the pill as though it’s not only big deal, but probably a smart thing to do if you are or plan to be sexually active and HALLEFUCKINGLUIAH. You know what turns me on? Realistic and frank acknowledgements of sex and the teenage experience with a subtle emphasis placed on being safe and smart.
My second favorite thing was the ship. Not only is Cass adorable and sweet and generally all around wonderful, but their relationship dynamic is on point, which is not to say perfect. I like that Fitzpatrick takes the time to show that liking someone and figuring out a relationship can be hard on both parties. I also love that there’s a subtle, glorious twist on traditional, gender-based relationship dynamics. When it comes to the physical stuff, Gwen is the one making the first move and owning the situation whereas Cass tends to be the one opening up on the emotional side. It’s so smoothly done and true to character that I didn’t even consider the significance of what was happening until thinking about it later.
Bravo, Huntley Fitzpatrick, bravo. I flat out adored What I Thought Was True, there is no way I’m doing this book justice, but trust me, it’s amazing and you want to read it.