What an intense book! I got this one on Net Galley, courtesy of Flux. I wasn’t expecting a fluffy book, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this! I thought it would have more to do with teens vacationing for the summer and less to do with abusive relationships and rape.
I give this writer a lot of points for not sugarcoating anything. She doesn’t fast-forward the hard parts. And in some respects this made it take longer for me. It’s hard reading about abuse and rape. I had to force myself to keep reading it at times just because it was so hard for me to read about. But, I’m glad I kept reading because Gelbwasser is a wonderful writer. The ending tied some things up so nicely. And while the book (and the end) could have been a lot happier, it was also beautiful.
Any way, it’s about four teens: Katie and Julie (sisters) and Alex and Kyle (brothers). Katie and Julie are brought up by a controlling, image-obsessed mother and a very submissive father. And Alex and Kyle are brought up by a single mother (who works for the most part as a stripper). Their father killed himself when they were young. They all come together every summer in a lake house community in upstate New York.
The books begins and I feel so bad for Julie, the sister who is completely outshined. Her mother only tells her negative things. And you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Katie, the pretty one, seems to have it all. That is until she gets wasted at a party, and then raped by her boyfriend and his best friend. It was hard to like Katie to start with because of how perfect she was. And then it was even harder for me to like her because of the stupid decisions she made, and her inability to stand up for herself. But as the stories of the sisters progress, I came to feel nothing by empathy for Katie, despite her continuation of bad decisions. And the not as pretty Julie gets worse and worse. She refuses to understand why Katie keeps sinking deeper and deeper, and actually believes that her sister deserves to have a sex tape out there for the world to see…
Katie’s summer boyfriend, Alex, is the perfect boyfriend the summer after Katie is raped. But when he actually learns what happened he becomes the terrible guy you would expect from a stripper mother and a series of abusive boyfriends. He sort of put Katie up on this pedestal as being the one girl who was not a slut. So, when he learns about what happened, he comes to think that all women are just like his mom. Kyle and Julie have a fleeting romance that dwindles around the same time that Julie becomes awful. He really feels bad for Katie, and ends up being her one true friend (besides her father). And you learn something that really explains it all about Kyle at the very end.
I repeat, this book is intense. There’s sex, rape, abuse, sex tapes, rumors, bullying, student/teacher relations and so much more. It’s about image. It’s about how a woman can be a rape victim yet, still end up being the bad guy. It’s about surviving the toughest of situations. And it’s about growing up when nothing is easy and the way you look is more important than the way you think or want to be.
All of the characters are flawed, and this just makes them more real. I like how the author played with perspective and I loved getting their individual points of view. I loved how Kyle’s point of you was in second person. I hated the girls’ mother so much sometimes that I kept hoping for something in the plot that would destroy her. And even though I hated Alex, I could still somewhat understand him. Nothing in this book was easy. So it makes sense that it wouldn’t be easy to love or hate any of the characters. If anything this book shows that nothing is black and white (except maybe the evil mom). And while Julie becomes the sister from hell, I still want her to end up okay so I can’t hate her completely.
I wish I had a little bit more warning about what I was getting into before I read this, but then I’m not sure I would have picked it up so quickly. And I really am glad I read this. It was well put together. If anything, maybe it will help prevent future incidents from happening. I give it a 9/10.