Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ARC Review: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick


Title: What I Thought Was True

Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Release Date: April 15th, 2014

Although Fitzpatrick’s sophomore novel has made it onto many “Waiting on Wednesday” posts and “Top Ten Most Anticipated” lists, it’s one of the last books I expected to be reading this year. While Fitzpatrick managed to hit the nail on the head concerning quite a few issues with her debut novel, My Life Next Door fell seriously flat for me. Thus, to find myself quite besotted with her sophomore piece is a surprise, to say the least. But What I Thought Was True battles the crashing waves of adolescence with an honesty that is forthcoming, a romance that is flawed, and relationships that really do withstand the test of time.

What I Thought Was True is a tale with multiple plot threads, but Fitzpatrick manages to make these complex story lines converge in a cohesive manner. While Fitzpatrick’s debut was set in a small town, her sophomore novel takes place on a quaint island whose class divisions are starkly felt. Gwen Castle, the protagonist of our tale, hails from a long line of Portuguese fishermen and lives on the wrong side of the bridge. Stony Bay, just across the bridge, is home to rich private schools, decadent clubs, and wealthy homes while in Gwen’s own household her mother is a house-cleaner and both she and her cousin take on summer jobs to help carry the economic weight of the household.

Fitzpatrick instills the very mentality of this town slowly, but deeply, into your very bones itself. It’s always difficult to convey the sense, the feeling, of a fictional location without spelling it out explicitly but Fitzpatrick outdoes herself with What I Thought Was True. Gwen’s household, as well, is so vibrantly portrayed. First and foremost, it is an interracial setting with Gwen herself being only half-Portuguese but her cultural heritage is keenly felt, as are the personas of all her family members. Gwen’s parents, though divorced, are both still very much present in her life, albeit in different ways, as is her grandfather whose presence adds to the ethnic feel of the story. Of utmost importance, though, is Emory, Gwen’s eight-year-old brother who isn’t autistic, but isn’t perfectly normal either, as well as Gwen’s eighteen-year-old cousin brother, Nic, who has lived with them for as long as Gwen can remember.

Gwen, her best friend Vivian, and Nic have been the three musketeers for years and although Vivian and Nic have now been dating for years, their friendship hasn’t changed. While Vivian and Nic share the type of relationship that Gwen – and everyone, really – only dreams of, the summer brings forth unexpected cracks. For one, there is the wild rumor that Vivan and Nic have been looking at engagement rings – a fact kept wholly secret from Gwen.  Add to that the fact that Nic dreams of joining the Coast Guard while Viv simply wants to stay in their small island town and Gwen is officially caught between the two people who mean the most to her. Fitzpatrick does such a skillful job of navigating the multiple relationships that Gwen possesses in her life, taking the time to develop these integral friendships through meaningful conversation. While these three teens start their summer thinking they want one thing, they wind up realizing that life doesn’t always give us what we want and, even scarier, what we want can change – quite suddenly, too.
“And this is the hardest, weirdest part of not being that barefoot girl and that towheaded boy running down the sand to the water, all legs and elbows and unself-conscious. Suddenly, you edge your way to the end of your second ten years and BOOM. Your choices matter. Not chocolate or vanilla, bridge or pier, Sandy Claw or Abenaki. It’s your whole life. We’re suddenly this close, like Nic said, to the wrong move. Or the right one. It matters now.” (Page 236)
Surprisingly enough, though I enjoyed Gwen’s incredibly developed relationships, as well as the growth that she and her loved ones go through, the romance truly did sweep me off my feet. In fact, there are no love stories I love better than those which feature protected sex, a feminist heroine, and a respectful hero. What I Thought Was True starts off with Gwen trying her level best to avoid Cassidy and failing quite spectacularly as he seems to pop up wherever she goes. Cassidy lives in Stony Bay, the rich side of the bridge, and Gwen, for all her helpful tendencies, has a bit of a reputation. Fitzpatrick takes her time to unveil the truth of Gwen’s past, not just with Cassidy, mind you, but I loved that she never judged her own character for her actions. Even better, Gwen isn’t ashamed of her actions. Granted, she does have regrets – which teenager doesn’t? – but she isn’t embarrassed by wanting physical affection and, what’s more, isn’t a simpering virgin.

Yet, Gwen is a good girl. Not only is she honest, but she is respectful and kind. Not a slut, not a bitch, and not a whore. With Gwen, Fitzpatrick has created a heroine who doesn’t fit into the typical boxes – white, virgin, innocent – but she also hasn’t flaunted her protagonist. We don’t realize that Gwen is ebony-skinned until almost half-way through the book (although it’s quite easy to surmise from her heritage). We aren’t made to question Gwen’s virginity – or lack of it – or even gasp at the honest sexual discussions she shares with her best friend. Fitzpatrick makes it seem so effortlessly easy to include friendships, close family ties, culture, heritage, and a meaningful romance that stresses a respect for boundaries. I only wish more authors would write contemporary novels like this one because, frankly, this is what the industry needs, not more Twilight Fifty Shades of Grey rip-offs.

And speaking of alpha males, can we all applaud the fact that Cassidy might just be the total opposite of one? Admittedly, his relationship with Gwen has a bit of a rocky past but at the core he's an absolute sweetheart. Gwen and Cassidy's romance is slow, tortuous, and an enticing sizzle to read unfold. Full of open discussion, unsaid secrets, and an undercurrent of sexual tension, I loved every one of their interactions (particularly when Cassidy turns on his charm!). Yet, what I love most about their relationship is that it affirms the boundaries these two desire in their relationship and reaffirms them all over again when they change. It's such a healthy relationship, one in which both parties are happy and the pace is moving according to their own desires, not their past experiences. Of course, getting to the relationship in question is one of the best arcs in the story, but the sustaining romance is a favorite of mine as well.

Ultimately, I cannot recommend this book enough. What I Thought Was True is an incredible story about growing up and facing the hard truths that life throws at you. It’s a novel about coming to terms with the hand you’ve been dealt, learning to cope with change, and, most importantly, sustaining relationships despite the hurdles. Fitzpatrick could have easily molded this into “just another” summer romance but, trust me, it is so much more than that. Needless to say, I’ve already ordered a copy of this for my own bookshelf to hug, just as much as I will.

24 comments:

  1. I haven't even gotten around to read her debut novel, but this is going on my tbr list! I love the sound of the romance, and Cassidy, and the island setting, too!

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  2. Sounds like a good YA :) Without the things that makes me roll my eyes

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  3. Glad you enjoyed it, Keertana!! Gwen was a wonderful character and I totally loved the island setting. The one that captivates me was, the slow growing romance between Gwen and Cassidy. To top it off, Fitzpatrick's writing was impeccable. I've also ordered a finished copy too(: Wonderful review,Keertana!! (:

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  4. It sounds like Huntley's books are getting better and better! I've read one, I believe, and it was good, but it wasn't great. This seems to be a more powerful summer tale, and that's the best kind there is! Lovely review, Keertana :)

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  5. Love the review! You couldn't convince me anymore that this is a well written novel. And with a winter like this, I am in need of a summer novel. I'll have to get this one and hopefully feel like hugging it, too!

    Heather

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  6. Gwen sounds like a fantastic character! I love that she's a good girl without being a Mary Sue, that she's sweet and kind and yet still complex. And yay for a quietly diverse book.

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  7. You have no idea who much happy I'm right now. I enjoyed Fitzpatrick's first novel and when you say that this one is even better to you I know I'll have to get to it soon enough. I love the sound of its realty and honesty that's always a plus. Great review, Keertana :)

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  8. I agree completely that the type of romance you describe is exactly what we need more of. I liked My Life Next Door well enough, but even then, I could see Fitzpatrick's potentia and I'm so very glad I was right.
    You make a very convincing case, Keertana! I didn't bother to request an arc, but now I think I'll go pre-order a copy.

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  9. Oh I love it when the second book is better! Love the sound of the characters and the romance! Open discussion! You rarely see that in any novel. Oh you have convinced me. I need to read these books!

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  10. Wow Keertana, you have me absolutely obssessed with getting a copy of this! I am planning to buy it when it comes out--but I think I'll read My Life Next Door first. We definitely need some more sweetheart boys and cute and slow romances lately.

    Fantastic review, girl! <33

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  11. YAY!!!!! I adored My Life Next Door, so I'm glad even though that one didn't really work for you, you still gave this book a try and ended up loving it so much. It's so much fun when that happens:) This sounds really character driven, and it's always fascinating to me to read about the changing dynamics between longtime friends, I think we all experience that at some point and can relate. Fabulous review Keertana!

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  12. I am SO GLAD to hear that you enjoyed this Keertana!

    While I enjoyed My Life Next Door, I didn't love it nearly as much as everyone else did but when I came across this book, I kind of had a 'moment'. Something about this book speaks to me and I just have such a strong feeling that I'll love it; so to see that you enjoyed it so much makes me unspeakably happy.

    Lovely Review, Keertana!!

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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  13. I have this book on pre-order, so I am utterly thrilled to see your rating and praise for this book. It is always hard to find a decent sophomore novel these days, but I am so glad that you decided to give another novel by Fitzpatrick ago. The setting and story of this book sound utterly gorgeous and I really do like the depth that Fitzpatrick provides with her characters! I honestly need to my copy to get here even sooner now! Gorgeous review as always!

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  14. Now I am even more excited to read this book. Great review, Keertana.

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  15. I loved My Life Next Door so this was already on my radar. Glad to see that in spite of not loving her debut you've clicked with this one. This sounds like a well-rounded story/romance. Excellent review, Keertana! :)

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  16. I don't think I've ever felt the urgency to pick up a summer romance--until now, that is. Much of that urgency has a lot to do with the fact that this novel isn't fluff. This has depth! I just love what you have to say about the pull of the exotic and charming setting, the strength of the friendships, and the romance that keeps you begging for more. Most importantly, I love the sound of Gwen and how unapologetic she is about who she is--how comfortable she is in her skin, but in the end, she's also real. She has her faults and regrets too. Awesome! Can't wait to check this out! :)

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  17. I'll definitely be picking up this book! I don't think I've read anything about it until now, but it sounds like a spectacular read and you haven't steered me wrong with your positive reviews so far, Keertana! I love that the heroine isn't a virgin. That's such an awesome and realistic take on YA. Finally a teen who acts like a teen and could genuinely be one. Brilliant review! I can't wait to pick this one up now! I think it will perfect for a summer read.

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  18. That girl on the cover does not appear to have dark skin?! OR maybe I'm missing it in the lighting? In any case, you have sold me 100% on this book and I cannot wait for it to release in a few weeks. I've been excited for this already, but you make it sound INCREDIBLE. Living in New England on the coast myself, I LOVE that this author gives you the feeling of this town, and I cannot wait for the aching romance between Gwen and Cassidy.

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  19. Well, I'm intrigued! I wasn't much interested in Fitzpatrick's debut, despite the fact that it seems so well-praised. This, however, sounds much more appealing to me. I love that the protagonist has distinguishing characteristics from so many YA contemporary heroines, such as her culture and skin color. I am curious to see how Fitzpatrick's apparent frankness with sexuality and sex translates to the book. Lovely review, Keertana!

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  20. sounds like a very interesting story, lots of characters. I think I would like Gwen, because in a way her character sounds very real and relate-able.

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  21. I am so glad that Fitpatrick's second novel is being so well-received! I am even more excited for it now after reading your review, Keertana.

    Great review.

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  22. I loved her first book, but this one wasn't as good to me, but I can def see the ways to love.

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