Title: The Summer of Skinny Dipping
Author: Amanda Howells
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Author's blog: Amanda Howells
Summary (from book cover): Sometimes I still wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of looking up at the moon and feeling as invisible and free as a fish. But I'm jumping ahead, and to tell the story right I have to go back to the very beginning. To a place called Indigo Beach. To a boy with pale skin that glowed against the dark waves. To the start of something neither of us could have predicted, and which would mark us forever, making everything that came after and before seem like it belonged to another life.
My name is Mia Gordon: I was sixteen years old, and I remember everything.
Initially, The Summer of Skinny Dipping came across as book full of stereotypical characters with a narrator who lived in a vicious cycle of feeling sorry for herself because she didn't fit in with her cousin and her cousin's friends, then trying to fit in with her cousin by acting like she knew what was going on while feeling out of place, then saying she couldn't believe she was acting like that instead of just being herself, then being jealous of them, and feeling sorry for herself all over again. After a few chapters of this, I thought, I hope the entire book isn't like this; if it is, it's going to be a looong and probably boring read.
Lucky for me, The Summer of Skinny Dipping doesn't stay in that cycle and once it moves on from that, it becomes amazing. There are so many things I love about this novel. The characters, despite my first (and incorrect) impression, is one of them, especially their relationships. I loved Mia's relationships with her parents. Her relationship with her mother was rocky at best; her mother is the type of always finds fault with Mia and tells her things like, "Honey, snacking between meals is not the way to slim down," when Mia's dad asks who wants to stop for ice cream during their road trip to Southampton. Mia's mother is like that throughout most of the book, telling Mia all the reasons why she's not good enough, and while it makes her mother almost unbearable, it also explains why Mia thinks about herself the way she does: for a good part of the book, she believes the things her mother says about her. Her relationship with her father, on the other hand, is entirely different. Mia's parents play favorites. Her mother's favorite is Mia's sister, Eva. But Mia is her father's favorite, and their relationship is fantastic. It's honest, open and caring.
Aside from the characters, The Summer of Skinny Dipping is beautifully written. Some of my favorite passages:
"Corinne still had those flashes of lightheartedness that appeared every so often, that sparkled like the bits of sea glass we used to collect as kids. I hoped she'd hang onto them and throw me a few more this summer." (Page 27)
"Because nothing can spoil the color of the Atlantic Ocean right there on that shore: it goes from navy to slate, from green into blue. It's all of those colors, and then sometimes it's almost colorless, see-through." (Page 23)
"Moonlight reflected off the dark water, like glitter on a sheet of black velvet." (Page 133)
"The pond water was still and beautiful. After the pounding surf of the Atlantic, swimming in Georgica would be like lying down on a cool, round mirror. But I liked the quiet of it, the flat calmness stretching out beyond and around us, rimmed by trees that camouflaged mansions. Ahead, sailboats bobbed lazily. From across the water came the jagged drone of a motorboat. A water-skier trailed behind, crisscrossing the pond's surface. Everything was baked gold by sunlight." (Page 180)
I could keep going with passages I loved. There were so many. I think Melissa de la Cruz's statement of what The Summer of Skinny Dipping is sums it up perfectly: "Like the best summer vacation--sweet, sultry, and filled with unexpected surprises." The only thing I would add to that description is that it is also heartbreaking. And what I really loved is that it's not a shallow book filled with Gossip Girl-type characters. There's so much going on in this book emotionally and psychologically, and it makes for a fabulous read.
I'm really excited because it turns out The Summer of Skinny Dipping is the first in a trilogy. You can find out more about the second novel on Amanda Howells' blog. I can't wait for it to be released. Amanda Howells is definitely a new favorite author of mine.