May 11, 2014

Review: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Title: What I Thought Was True
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 416
Source: eARC from Publisher
(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest
review. No favors were exchanged, my opinions are my own.)

First Reaction: I felt kind of confused and let down by this book... which makes me really sad because it was one of my big buzz books for 2014.
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 house cleaners 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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]


Gwen lives in one of those vacation towns where the rich have homes for the summer and few live year round. She doesn't usually have to deal with the rich kids head on, but ever since Cass and his best friend got themselves kicked out of their fancy private school, she's found they're more trouble than she could have ever imagined. While Gwen was certain she'd have a break from dealing with the rich boys on a daily basis during the summer, this turns out to not be the case when Cass takes up a job as the town's yard boy. It's this close contact that forces Gwen to face her fears head on and deal with a past she doesn't really want to deal with.

What Worked:
  • The Prose: Huntley Fitzpatrick knows how to write a book. She especially knows how to write a book. She totally puts you under the sun, on the beach, and ready to dive into the ocean. Hell, there's even a flashback scene set in the middle of winter and I felt cold just reading it. The dreamy quality of Huntley Fitzpatrick's prose shocks and awes every time. I'll never not feel right there in the moment when she's setting the sceen. 
  • Gwen's Family: I loved how present and apart of Gwen's life Emory, Grandpa Ben, Nic, her mom, her dad are. Her commitment to them is truly fantastic and just goes to show that there's plenty of room in YA books for strong, meaningful family ties. (Although Gwen's dad is a serious piece of work at times.)
  • Gwen and Cass: On a whole, they're cute and steamy all at once. I liked their misunderstandings and their drama. They both felt very human and distinct. Cass is especially fantastic, particularly when it comes to Emory. If the book had focused more on them and not everyone else, I think I would have enjoyed this one a lot more.
  • The Idea of Romance: This book takes a close look at love - both familial and romantic love. It shows how messy it can me and how even the most dedicated, I'll love you forever couples can falter. And despite the fact that not all the pairings and feelings ended in a way I felt did the characters justice, this book still took romance and pull at it in all directions until it had no choice but to show everything inside of it. Which was kind of lovely.

What Didn't Work:
  • The Main Drama: First of all, we're given no hint to what has Gwen feeling on the outs socially for the first 100-150 pages of this book. That was confusing. Then when I found out what the big issue was, I was underwhelmed. I mean, girl likes guys. So what? Yeah, there was an emotional kerfuffle, but I don't think that's enough to make her a leper. Especially when what's his face got off without consequences. (I hope this was vague enough for those who haven't read...)
  • Gwen's Summer Job: Gwen spends almost zero time with the woman she's supposed to be taking care of. I think there's an 100 page stretch where we don't even see this woman's name on the page. And the drama that comes directly from said summer job? Well, that would have been interesting if we'd been allowed more than just a dip of the toe into that book. Ultimately it felt like a plot device to me, and nothing more. 
  • Cass's Summer Job: Uh... there's only one yard boy for an entire community? Not. Buying. It. Those rich ladies would never stand for that. Also, wouldn't they have a private yard boy who is a pro and focuses all their energy on their houses? (Because Cass is not a pro and focuses most of his energies on staring at Gwen.)
  • Nic and Viv: I can't really get into this bullet point without spoilers, but I will say that what was, at the start of the book, my favorite couple, is totally my least favorite thing about this book at the end. Without question. And if you know (as some people do) what sorts of things really turn me off in books, I think you can guess what happens here.
  • The Last 100 Pages: This is when the book totally fall apart for me. Gwen and Cass work out there stuff 3/4ths of the way through this book. They've worked out the misunderstanding and clear skies are ahead. But then, just to make sure Gwen doesn't have an true love relationship role models, another loop is thrown and everything kind of collapses on itself. And then, after it's all collapsed and Gwen and Cass have more drama, everything is just hastily sewn back together - with no consequences for anyone - in time for a hazy string of words of an epilogue that takes place a year later at graduation - where there are still no consequences for anyone. 

The long and short of it?

Confused, unnecessarily drawn out, and unfocused.
World Building: I love the world Huntly Fitzpatrick creates, although I'm not sure I buy this yard boy job.
Character Development: Gwen and Cass are pretty fantastic but everyone else annoys me to some degree or another.
Prose: Deliciously dreamy.
Would I Recommend This Book?: This book did a lot of good things. But the execution wasn't so great for me. So if you're looking for a summery book full to the brim of lovely, dreamy prose and a slow, imperfect story, this book is just your speed.

Did you have similar problems with this book? Maybe you think I'm absolutely out of my mind for not feeling this book. Either way, let's talk in the comments below, okay?