What I Thought Was True
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Dial Books
Number of Pages: 416
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.
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 housecleaners 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.
A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.
I was completely charmed by Huntley Fitzpatrick's debut novel, My Life Next Door, so I was obviously thrilled when I was given the opportunity to read her newest offering. What I Thought Was True has several of the things I look for in a YA romance: a relatable female protagonist, a cute boy, an idyllic summer/beach location, feisty friends, and, of course, a sweet romance. I was a bit nervous going in after seeing a couple of early star-ratings and statements about how it doesn't come close to her debut, but I needn't have worried. I loved What I Thought Was True and found it just as charming, albeit different, from the author's beloved first book.
WITWT follows a teen named Gwen Castle. A half-white, half-Puerto Rican who lives on the small island of Seashell year-round. The island is full of beautiful houses that are owned by "summer people", while those who permanently live on the island are those who run it for the rich who come in the summer: the restauranteurs, the maids, the fisherman, etc. Gwen lives with her mother; her grandfather; her younger brother, Emory; and her cousin, Nico. The house they live in is tight with Gwen sharing a room with her mother, who works as a maid, and the three males sharing the other room of their small house. Nic and Gwen are the same age and have been raised together their whole lives. For years Nic has been dating Gwen's best friend, Vivien, and she is used to being their third wheel. Gwen's father also lives on the island and while she usually works as a waitress at his restaurant in the summers, this year she has decided to work as a "sitter" to the lovely old lady, Mrs. Ellington, who, after a nasty fall, finds that she is unable to do all that she used to do.
Things get complicated for Gwen when she discovers that Cassidy Somers (Cass) is also spending the summer on the island as the official yard-boy. Cass and his best friend, Spencer, live across the bridge from Seashell in the town of Stony Bay, but have attended school with the local kids for the past year after getting the boot from their prestigious private school. Cass and Gwen have a past that is slowly revealed throughout the novel as they also start to grow closer once again.
Again, I really enjoyed What I Thought Was True. I absolutely adored the little town of Seashell. I'm seriously such a sucker summer books that take place on the beaches of the East Coast. It has always been my dream to have a summer house in a small East Coast beach town (and now that I'll have summers off, the dream is just that much closer--yay teaching). I loved Cass--so cute, and for the most part really liked Gwen although some aspects of her character got on my nerves. I really liked how the story wasn't all romance. A good part of the book focused on Gwen's family, especially her younger brother and her cousin. Focus was also given to Nic and Viv's relationship.
Gwen's brother, Emory, has some sort of undiagnosed developmental problems. He isn't autistic, we are told a couple of times, but does display autistic-like symptoms. He becomes enthralled with Cass and calls him Superman. For his part, Cass embraces the little dude and decides that he is going to help teach him to swim when he finds out that the 7 year-old doesn't know how even though he lives on an island. I loved little Em and wanted to reach in the book and give him a giant hug.
I also liked the look at Nic and Viv's long-term relationship and the way older teens who've been together forever inevitably have to examine their lives and their relationship to see if it will last after high school (of which they all have one more year). Neither Nic nor Gwen want to get stuck on the island forever like Gwen's parents, but both know that they will be responsible for Em for the rest of their lives. Nic wants to go to The Academy and join the National Guard, but Viv is terrified that their relationship will not survive the separation. I found their relationship to be sweet and realistic and appreciated that the story allowed for the secondary characters to have a real story of their own.
Speaking of realistic, I appreciated the fact that Gwen isn't a saint. She has made mistakes and has already slept with a couple of different guys at the beginning of the story. She regrets some of her decisions, but I liked that she wasn't the typical YA heroine. All girls are different. I personally was a bit of a late bloomer, but I had several friends who made regretful decisions in high school, and ones who made exactly the right decisions for themselves. There is no right way to be. Girls should never be judged by their sex lives--or lack thereof, and I love it when authors allow for their characters to be real.
My only, and truly small, complaint of the story is the way Gwen occasionally talks down about her body. Throughout the novel she makes comments about being fat or how if she ate too many cookies and now she is fat. It is obvious from the attention she gets that Gwen is a beautiful girl, and one of my biggest pet peeves is when authors perpetuate the idea that girls feel like they have to achieve some unattainable standard of beauty--which makes girls continue to believe they have to obtain that standard. A teen girl who is reading a YA novel should never have to hear the narrator refer to herself as fat because she ate too many cookies. Embrace the body God gave you!
Overall, I loved What I Thought Was True. The romance is sweet, the location is ideal, the secondary characters shined, and all the characters were realistic and real. If you enjoyed the author's first book, have no fear, this one is different, but lovely in its own way. If you haven't read Huntley Fitzpatrick's debut, you should remedy that immediately and then read this one.
*I received an advanced reader's copy of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange of an honest review.*