Book Review: The Summer I Wasn’t Me

Book Review: The Summer I Wasn't Me

Alexsenia Ralat, Arts Editor

There are few books in which I have related to the main character on a personal level. Admittedly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of books about young, gay, Hispanic women. And while The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi is not about a young Hispanic woman, it is about a young gay woman trying to come to terms about her sexuality. That has a lot to do with why I love this book so much. People tend to love characters whom they relate to and share traits with so I guess it makes sense that I picked the gay one.

There wasn’t many things about this book that I did not like. The dialogue was good and easy to follow, the plot was interesting, and there was never a dull moment. Honestly the only problem I have with the whole novel was the fact that it seems a lot like the plot of the 1999 film But I’m A Cheerleader starring Orange is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne. Much like Megan in But I’m a Cheerleader, the main character of the book, Lexi, goes to a religious camp in order to learn to like boys instead of girls. Unlike Megan though, Lexi sends herself to the camp.

After Lexi’s mom finds out about her sexuality, Lexi sets out to make sure that what’s left of her broken family doesn’t fall apart for good. She understands that what her mother’s church thinks means a lot to her, and that without them she would fall apart. Since Lexi’s father’s death, her mother’s mental and physical health have taken a turn for the worse and she fears that her sexuality could be the thing to break her. So she sets off to fix it, to fix herself.

New Horizons, an anti-gay conversion camp led by the middle aged and slightly creepy Mr. Martin, promised salvation that is “just around the bend.” At the camp, Lexi is stripped of everything that may have influenced her attraction to women, from her shoes to her nickname. She is forced to wear pink and introduce herself as Alexis to her fellow camp goers. She is forced to participate in gender based activities and sleep in what could only be described as a nightdress. Her phone privileges are taken away, all of her personal possessions that she brought with her are taken away and everything is changed until she has the perfect blank slate.

To say that her fellow camp goers are interesting would be an understatement. There’s Matthew, the obviously gay kid who talks about his boyfriend freely and doesn’t want to be at New Horizons. Then there’s Carolyn, the beautiful, perfect, amazing Carolyn. Lexi immediately knows that her infatuation with her goes against everything she is trying to achieve at New Horizons. But no matter how much she tries, she just can’t stay away. While going through activities like “Avoiding Satanic Influences” and counselors ignoring grey areas and forcing gender norms upon them that seem to fit more in the 1950s than the 2000s, Lexi tries to ignore her feelings.

This book has the perfect amount of lightheartedness, mystery, and traumatic events to make it a best seller. It’s realistic, it’s relatable, and it doesn’t leave the reader hanging from a cliff hanger ending. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about a lesbian finding herself at an anti-gay conversion camp. Or to anyone who liked But I’m a Cheerleader. This book is surely a must-read for teenage members of the LGBTQ community.