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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Blog Tour, Giveaway, & Guest Post: The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi

Hello readers. Today, I'm hosting a stop on the blog tour for the new LGBTQ YA novel The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi. Jessica was nice enough to join Bitches n Prose for a guest post on the topic of writing from an LGBTQ perspective. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jessica.

Guest Post:



Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Jill, and for your great question about what it was like to write from an LGBTQ perspective. For me, writing about LGBTQ characters and issues was not really any different than writing any other kind of book. In the end, it’s all the same, right? Life, love, character arcs, story twists. I always include LGBTQ characters in my stories, whether they’re supporting or leading, so writing The Summer I Wasn’t Me felt very natural to me.


That said, I was always aware that this book would be somewhat of a risk, since every single teen character(and most of the adult ones as well) is LGBTQ. But at the same time I wasn’t worried because I know teen readers are eager to understand all different types of characters’ journeys, regardless of whether they mirror their own experience or not. I recently did an interview with an LGBTQ newspaper and was asked if I worried the book would only appeal to gay teens, because it’s a lesbian love story at its core. And I said nope, not at all. I truly believe the YA literary world has made great strides over the past few years and while teen readers still do almost always demand some sort of love interest in the books they read (I don’t blame them! Lexi and Carolyn foreva!), it doesn’t seem to matter all that much whether the couple is straight, gay, or anything else. Love is love, right? And after hearing back from so many readers of my first book, My Life After Now, who had nothing but lovely things to say about the main character’s two wonderful dads, I knew I was on the right path with Lexi’s story.



I’ve always been fascinated by these so-called conversion camps, places where religious leaders claim they can turn gay kids straight. There is no doubt in my mind that they’re claiming to do the impossible, and that telling LGBTQ kids there’s something wrong with them is nothing short of abuse, but the root behind these camps actually, in a twisted way, stems from a good place. The parents who send their kids to these programs truly believe their children are on the wrong path in life and that they will go to hell if they don’t make a change. These parents are desperate to “save” their kids, in their own misguided way. This is something that has long intrigued me, and a world I knew I wanted to explore in the book.



I sincerely wish that more people thought the way you do, in regards to "love is love". Thank you so much for the insightful glimpse into your process of writing The Summer I Wasn't Me.

My Review



Title: The Summer I Wasn't Me
Editor: Jessica Verdi
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 1st 2014
Source: Netgalley & Sourcebooks Fire
Purchase: Amazon

★★★★

Four stars.

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Since the death of her father, Lexi's mother has been acting differently. She's not the same person anymore, void of happiness and life. This only gets worse when she learns that Lexi is a lesbian. Lexi just wants to keep her promise to take care of her mother, and so agrees to attend New Horizons: a gay-to-straight conversion camp. Lexi must decide if she can really change who she is and if love is an emotion that really can be controlled, while discovering what the camp will truly offer her as a "cure."

I loved this book. I'd like to give a little bit of personal insight as to why before giving my review of the actual text itself. It is no secret to my readers that I am an out member of the LGBT community. My girlfriend and I have been together four years now. But of that four years, I have only been out for one. Why? Because I hated myself. I didn't want to believe that I could be attracted to more than one gender. I blocked out that part of me for a long time. I let my guard down when I found a partner in Emily, but still each day I struggled with myself, and with her. How she managed to be patient enough to deal with my screaming at her and constant crying and self-belittlement, I will never know, but I am eternally grateful that she did. I finally cracked when I came home from a visit to her family's house in another state for a holiday, when I called my mom crying and vomiting to tell her the truth. She didn't honestly care. No one in my family really did. I am so lucky for this. The battle I fought, and admittedly still fight, was against myself, not against fear of others.

That being said, I felt a special connection to the young characters in this group who struggled to make sense of a world that too often condemns them and negates their feelings. While I never attended a camp nor thought about it, that feeling of wanting to change is there, was there. I have personally felt what some of these characters have and it broke my heart to read about them. Even the youth campers who are a bit less likable, I felt a connection to. If you, as an author, manage to capture a cast of folks that I bond with, then you have done something great. Lexi and Carolyn, the main couple in this book, of course stood out. But the other two members of their group, Matthew- a rebellious, hilarious, headstrong boy, and Daniel, a younger, more eager to change boy definitely added to the story.

The camp was well written, in a horrid way. The descriptions were really vivid, and I was able to live the program right alongside those seeking their conversion so that they can be saved by God. And, while religion plays a key role in this book (as it is a Christian camp), I didn't feel that Verdi was at anytime mocking or disrespectful to the faith. The "twist" near the end of the book is one that I speculated about halfway through, but still made me irrationally angry and disgusted. (It is 4:26AM as I write this review. I had to finish the shit show that was going down.) I even cried a few times, and may or may not want a tattoo similar to Lexi's. I like the symbolism and girl, I know you're fictional but I know that feel.

Plus, look at the cover. Gorgeous.

I did think that the book ended in a bit of a rush. I would have liked to have seen more... Well, just more. How the relationships between Lexi and both her love interest and her mother pan out. How Matthew's life goes. What happens to the camp. More information about the counselors/employees and the alumni of New Horizons. I was frustrated that I was out of pages. It wasn't a cliffhanger, more of a "write the ending yourself" but -huffs- I don't want to (but I will).

I think this book is a solid addition to the genre of gay and lesbian young adult fiction. This book deals with some serious topics, but tells a story about love, being yourself, and fighting for what you believe in. Thank you truly, Netgalley, Sourcebooks, and Jessica Verdi for the chance to read this. I was given an egalley in exchange for my honest review.

Giveaway!


Now, here's your chance to win a copy of The Summer I Wasn't Me!
The Rules:
-This giveaway will run from May 3rd to May 10th, 2014.
-This giveaway is open to those 18+ and is USA & CANADA ONLY.
-It is open to anyone over that age who can legally enter, receive, and use their prize.
-One (1) winner will win a copy.
-This giveaway is sponsored wholly by the publisher.
-This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity.
-Winner will have 48 hours to reply, or a new winner will be chosen. Winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter.
-Invalid entries will be removed, so please don't cheat.
-Void where prohibited. Odds will vary. No purchase necessary.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 comments:

  1. I want sooooo much to win this, after reading your review I know it's a must read for me. Some of my favorite LGBT characters are Simone from Mosh Pit, and Patrick from Perks of Being a Wallflower.

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  2. The Summer I Wasn't Me sounds like a brilliant addition to my bookshelf. Like Mad_In_Wonderland, Patrick from The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a favorite, along with Ronan from The Raven Boys books, the cast of Two Boys Kissing, Joey from Winger, and Robby from Grasshopper Jungle.

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    Replies
    1. I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I haven't read The Raven Boys or Grasshopper Jungle (yet) but I've heard great things.

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