Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda HowellsTitle: The Summer of Skinny Dipping
Author: Amanda Howells
ISBN: 9781402238628
No. of Pages: 295
Genre: Young Adult; Fiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 1 June 2010
Bottom Line: Stereotypical coming-of-age story

“Sometimes I 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 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.

Thoughts: Ah, Mia. Perhaps teen readers would better appreciate her conflicted attitudes towards her cousins. Adult readers will see everything she does wrong and cringe at her inability to stick with her convictions yet applaud her for at least recognizing her own hypocrisy. Teen readers may not be so quick to judge because they are currently working through some of the same identity issues as Mia. Adult readers have been there and done all that and already know the best path through this tricky minefield before adulthood. Still, it is always refreshing to reflect on this time period in one’s life, and Mia’s personal journey is better than most.

What is a young adult coming-of-age story without a tragedy? In this, The Summer of Skinny Dipping proves to be no exception. While the tragedy is not a surprise – savvy readers will see its possibility from the moment of introduction – It does not lose its effectiveness. It is upsetting and unfair and everything that life is but we wish it was not. Mia’s handling of the tragedy is a tad melodramatic but intense and realistic given that all teenagers have a flair for the dramatic. The fact that it helps bring the story to a close is also important because it is follows the formula established by so many YA authors prior to Ms. Howell.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping is the stereotypical coming-of-age story filled with young love, angst-ridden self-reflection, quirky neighbors, mean girls, and growing independence. It even has the clichéd ending because such stories can never end happily. This means that there are very few surprises, and the story itself is very formulaic. The funny thing about formulas, however, is that they usually work, and The Summer of Skinny Dipping is no exception to this. Mia’s struggles as the proverbial fish out of water are insightful, while her burgeoning relationship with the boy next door is appropriately charming. The Summer of Skinny Dipping is as advertised – flirty and fun with very little in the way of surprises.

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