April 27, 2013

Lesson 3

Invincible Summer
by Hannah Moskowitz
Simon Pulse, 2011
269 pages

So many times, this book carried me right to the brink of LOVING it, but never quite managed it, and I'm sad to say that by the time I finished, it had failed to even make me like it.  I really wanted to do so, too, because there were aspects of the story that I thought were awesome, and a couple of characters that I really liked, but in the end, this novel just set my teeth on edge, like fingernails scratching on a chalkboard. *sigh*

It is the story of two families who own adjacent summer beach houses and spend their summer vacations there together each year. Though we get little hints and reminiscences of summers when the older children of each family were small and the younger ones hadn't even been thought of yet, the story doesn't begin until just before the narrator-protagonist's 15th birthday. The entire book consists solely of the stories of that and the following three summers, the interactions of various family members and between several members of the two different families.

It's difficult to fully explain my disappointment with this book without striking out into the treacherous waters of SPOILERS, so I will simply say that [A] I thought one of my favorite characters deserved a MUCH better outcome than they got, and [B] I felt that this book conveys some VERY disturbing messages to and about women, especially those who are high-school and college-aged. While I absolutely do not believe in censorship or banning books, I really think that any teens who read this book really need some extensive parental guidance and discussion while they do so.

One thing that I really DID love about the book was the way that three of the characters bonded over the writings of one author whose works have now become classics. If you've ever had that kind of experience, you'll know for yourself how it can happen and what an extraordinary feeling it engenders. When something truly inspires, the reader can spend months or even years engrossed in a single author's oeuvre and worldview. Even when you finally outgrow it, or your first passion for it cools a bit because new pieces constantly extend your horizons still further, there is always a certain attachment, a certain frisson of the old excitment and ardor whenever the book, poem, essay, or author is mentioned.

This bibliomaniac obsession with a newly-discovered author was the part of the book that I most enjoyed and with which I could be identify and empathize BY FAR, and it is one of the strongest and longest-running themes in the novel (hence my hopes throughout that I would end up liking the work much more than I ultimately did). Invincible Summer actually made me WILDLY curious to investigate the writings of the narrator's muse, and that in itself makes reading this book time well-spent, in my opinion. Unfortunately, however, I cannot in all honesty actually recommend this book.

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