The Big Summer - Jamie B. Laurie

Will is gay and struggling with it. Belittled, ridiculed, and beaten down by his so-called friends, he is pushed to his breaking point. He must make a change. With his quirky aunt Nellie by his side, Will moves to the sunny town of Seaside City, where he embarks on a journey to reinvent himself, discover first love, and maybe find a little bit of happiness along the way.

Hannah is Seaside City's resident extrovert-but behind her facade of confidence, she is riddled with insecurities. When she meets Will, Hannah decides to take him under her wing and become his guide. For a girl who desperately needs to be heard and understood, Will just may be exactly the friend she needs.

Daniel is Hannah's gorgeous twin brother-the perfect combination of funny, charming, and intelligent. Even though he should be off limits, Will cannot help but fall for him. But will a devious girlfriend and the confusion of sexual identity come between them?

Jamie Laurie's debut novel is a sweet story of first love mixed with the complexities and obstacles inherent in teenage life. Initially simplistic, the plot works well as a device to explore new beginnings. Aunt Nellie is a fabulously supportive secondary character, though her sudden reluctance at one point later in the text is a little bit jarring, in my opinion. Hannah, Blake, Michael, and Daniel are great, if slightly douchey from time to time. Katie is actually one of my favourite characters, to be honest. Even though she's not such a nice character for the majority of the book, she is a really internally complex and contradictorily motivated individual.

I like the creation of the list as a plot device and Will's desire to improve himself through a significant life change. I'm also very happy about the fact that his move to a seaside town is not treated as though he is running away from things. His desire to become a new person and actively change his life situation rather than wallowing in self-pity after being taken advantage of by ungrateful "friends."

Though the ending is slightly saccharine, I can't complain, since I actually keep hoping for happy endings for gay characters! Yay! That being said, the journey is rocky and Laurie manages to keep his characters from being stereotypically good or evil, allowing the reader to move between liking characters and wanting them to just shut the hell up (from time to time)! This is a very impressive debut, and I definitely recommend The Big Summer to fans of LGBT fiction, especially books that aren't necessarily problem novels. And there isn't a stereotypical gay bashing in the main plot (only one mentioned in retrospect)! Yay!

Though the book isn't perfect, it is a strongly written story of hope and resilience, and love, of course. Enjoy!



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