The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi, Sourcebooks, 2014. ISBN: 9781402277887. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS
Lexi never got to tell her father her most important secret and now he’s dead, a victim of pancreatic cancer. Her mother, a teacher, tumbled into a deep depression after her husband’s death and Lexi would do anything to pull her mom back from the brink. When Mom finds a telling sketch in her notebook, one that opens up Lexi’s sexuality, her mother goes completely off the deep end. In order to bring her mom back, she agrees to go to New Horizons Summer Camp, a christian camp that claims it can reprogram gay teens to be straight.
At first, Lexi has some hope. The director of the camp claims he’s been straight and happy for ten years. Most of the counselors also say that the program worked for them. Lexi just wants her mother to be okay again and is willing to do whatever that takes. Her resolve is seriously weakened when she’s placed in a group of four teens with Carolyn, a quiet and beautiful blonde from Connecticut. The two boys in the group, Matthew and Daniel are interesting opposites. Daniel is continually abused both verbally and physically by his dad who drinks. He’ll do anything to feel normal and stop the abuse. Matthew is fine being gay and even has a long-term relationship back home. His father, however can’t stand the thought of a gay son and has issued an ultimatum: Make it through the two month program, or don’t come home.
The story takes you through the exercises designed to reprogram the teens as well as giving the reader an intimate look at how camper ticks and why. As the camp session goes on, Lexi begins to start questioning the methods, and more importantly, the supposed success of the program. When she can’t hide her attraction for Caroline and Matthew steps over the line and is placed in a very frightening and dangerous situation, Lexi, Daniel and Caroline have to decide what’s really important.
This is one heck of a book, but it has the potential to polarize people. Those who are of the mindset that homosexuality is a learned trait, will not like this book, those who are more open-minded may well like it as much as I did. Regardless of how you feel, this is a great book for creating a dialogue about an extremely important issue that many teens and their families face.