A beautiful, gritty story about family.
According to Hannah herself, this is not your typical beach read. I agree.
If you are looking for a light, fluffy, full of smiles story, this is not your book. That’s not to say I didn’t smile while reading it – there were some hilarious moments that had me giggling audibly – but this book, at it’s core, is about a messed up family.
The story of the McGill family is narrated by Chase and told over the course of four summers at the family’s beach house. I absolutely loved Chase’s arc as a character. He changed with each summer, as did the conflicts that the family faced. In many ways, Chase sees himself as the sole responsible member of the family, and he tries so very hard to keep his family from falling apart. He is almost creepily obsessed with his older brother, Noah, who disappears for days on end. He is uncomfortable with the sexuality of his younger sister, Claudia, who is transitioning from a young girl to a young woman rather quickly. He loves his youngest brother Gideon to death and wishes his family could better communicate with him despite his being profoundly deaf.
The problem is that everything is changing, and nothing stays the same, and that’s really all Chase wants – he wants to freeze his family in a moment where everything is perfect and keep them in that moment for eternity. Now you and me both know that this isn’t how life works. Everyone grows up. No one stays young and innocent forever. Childhood ends. Things get messy. Life gets complex. And this story is about Chase coming to terms with that. As his family – each and every member – grows and changes, loves and loses, laughs and cries, Chase does the same alongside them. Chase learns that growing up can suck.
There’s also Melinda, but she’s not really the point of the story. Don’t let the summary fool you. She is one piece of Chase’s journey, another character that effects his family and his relationship with his older brother. She is tragic and she pulls the McGill brothers around with her. But this novel is so much more than a love triangle. The whole thing is a love fest – that’s what I’m saying, at least – a love fest with family, with the people you love to hate and hate to love, the people you can’t walk away from even when you think you might be better off for it, the people that are there when you hit rock bottom, and the people that are there as you claw your way back up.
Moskowitz really, really rocks at this whole real, gritty, dysfunctional family stuff. I ate it up. I believed every minute of it – except for the Camus quoting. While I do think it realistic that some teens may memorize a line or two of their favorite works, I had a hard time buying that Chase, Noah and Melinda could recite lengthy Camus quotes at the drop of a hat, not to mention always pick a quote that perfectly reflected their current situation. To me, that was a stretch, but everything else about this novel was so beautiful that I didn’t care.
I laughed reading this story. And smirked, and cringed, and cried. I felt a whole lot of things and I felt them in my gut. Moskowitz writes with equal amounts passion and grace and so long as you don’t want that beach read, you really, really, really should pick up this book. It was perhaps the most bittersweet, gut-wrenchingly honest story about family that I have read in quite some time.
Originally reviewed here