Release Date: April 19, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Age Group: Young Adult
"Noah’s happier than I’ve seen him in months. So I’d be an awful brother to get in the way of that. It’s not like I have some relationship with Melinda. It was just a kiss. Am I going to ruin Noah’s happiness because of a kiss?"
Across four sun-kissed, drama-drenched summers at his family’s beach house, Chase is falling in love, falling in lust, and trying to keep his life from falling apart. But some girls are addictive....
I wanted to like Invincible Summer more than I did. While I did enjoy Hannah Moskowitz’s second novel, it left me feeling a little unsatisfied.
To start, I wholeheartedly think this book suffers from a misconstrued campaign. Both the cover and the blurb all point toward a light beach read- a story about a boy, his brother, and their love of the same girl. These topics are even hashed out by the author herself on her blog. This is very clearly a story about a family- their struggles, their triumphs, their sorrows. It’s all about the dysfunctional McGills, more specifically Chase “Everboy” McGill, following them through four consecutive summers at their beach house. Every summer is told through Chase’s eyes, culminating in a life-changing experience on his birthday every year.
The entire novel felt very disjointed, never really gelling until it was almost over. The plots hopscotched around too often, not just from summer to summer but even within each summer. The 2nd Summer in particular felt choppy, concentrating large chunks on Chase’s exploding libido and his lust after his brother’s girl Melinda as well as his concern over Gideon’s communication issues, Claudia’s personality experiments, and Noah’s disappearances. These topics never combined in a way that flowed well, and too much time was spent on each topic in turn. Also, much of the conflict and the twists, especially the events at the end of the 3rd Summer, smacked of misery for misery’s sake. Life isn’t always fair, but it was just too much.
I felt like physically shaking Chase’s parents from page one. They were so focused on themselves, on their own issues, that they failed to notice what was going on with their children. They definitely had good reason to concentrate on their problems, but too often, they passed on their responsibilities to the kids. I know the dynamic in big families is different than the “typical” family, especially with a large age gap in the kids. The fact that the older kids are often taking care of or watching the younger ones didn’t bother me. What did irk me was that Chase was the only one over the age of 12 who consistently thought of someone other than himself. By the time the absent parents and the absent Noah finally redeem themselves, it was too little too late for me. I was already too frustrated.
It’s impossible to not mention the Camus references. They take up a major part of the story, quotes flying out of the mouths of Melinda, Noah, Chase, and even Gideon at times. While these quotations might have been fitting to the situations, they also seemed awkward and almost forced. It was an interesting device, but it didn’t really take off. My bigger problem is the reality of having the characters fling Camus quotes around from memory. They would simply whip one out whenever the mood caught them, dropping knowledge like quarters into a snack machine. I would have believed it much more if they carried the book around with them, at least during the 2nd Summer.
There were many things I did enjoy about Invincible Summer. Though the pacing didn’t flow as well, the prose did. Moskowitz has a beautiful writing style that perfectly fit Chase as a narrator. Male protagonists in YA aren’t always believable, but Chase was. I also loved that the language wasn’t cleaned up, since I totally think salty language would be used in almost all of these tough situations. Also, I adored sweet little Gideon. Part of that is my own background in sign language, but also, he was just a well-written, well-developed character, and his growth over his summers was incredible. Unfortunately, this is partially why I have some issues with the misery twists in the plot.
Despite all of this, I found Invincible Summer to be an interesting read, and I would recommend it just to get a taste of Moskowitz’s style. Besides, I believe it was Albert Camus who said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”