Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by: Jessica Anya Blau

Total: Four and a half stars.

(I'm just going to use the trailer instead of the back cover description, m'kay?)

First off, I’d just really like to say that this was not what I was expecting at all. From the back, title and cover design, I sort of assumed it was a Sisterhood of the Travelling-esque tale of friendship. I was wrong.

Although not told in a first person perspective, I still felt like it was really possible to feel Jamie’s raw emotion through the author’s writing. It has an interesting setting for a YA; a well-to-do neighbourhood in California, circa the mid-seventies.

Jamie lives in a gorgeous mansion-like, Spanish-style home with her hippie parents, Allen and Betty, and her sister, Renee, who completely rejects the lifestyle in which they live. Religion is a major theme within the book, and some religious prejudices - as well as racial ones - are presented, but in such a way that it makes the characters just seem naïve.

I wish the background characters were developed a little more. It was harder to relate to Renee, even though her beliefs about the hippie life were relatively well-founded, because she seems to float around without doing much. She doesn’t get many plot points and I wish the author had focused on her a little bit more, rather than making her come off so preachy and whiny.

My only other gripe is that the blurbs on the back of the novel and on Jessica Blau’s website made it seem like this book was “hilarious,” “funny,” and “humour[ous.]” It wasn’t. It was undeniably a story about disappointments, growing up, heartbreak, frustration and sadness - albeit a supremely good one.

Other than that, this novel was completely amazing. Especially for a debut, when it’s common for YA authors to try and stick a whole bunch of ideas in at once. Jessica Blau kept a nice, even pace going - although it drags at some parts - that was perfectly in tune with how a teenager (during any decade) would deal with things.

The relationships between Jamie and Renee, Jamie and her so-called “friends”, Jamie and her parents and Jamie and her older boyfriend, Flip were just spot-on. This is a story that rings true even today and I would recommend it to anyone.

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