Title: What I Thought Was True (2014)
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 422 pages
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say goodbye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy.
Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen’s dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.
What I Thought Was True is the story of Gwen, who is unsatisfied with her life at this small, coastal town and wants better for herself. I picked it up after I finished (and loved!) Huntley Fitzpatrick’s other books, My Life Next Door and its companion/sequel, The Boy Most Likely To. I expected this book, like the other two, to be character-driven, more mature than the typical contemporary YA, and overall a good, solid story. Unfortunately, it succeeded on the first two counts, not so much the third. Let’s get to why. 🙂
This book was extremely, extremely slow-paced. There were not that many important scenes, and what was there was few and far in between. A lot of it was Gwen just going about her daily life, setting the stage, introducing us to the various people in her life. There were also many, many hints of This Big Thing Gwen Did and Is Ashamed Of, but it wasn’t explicitly revealed until very late — just rather unnecessary, given that Gwen spends a lot of her time angsting about it and as a reader, I can make a calculated guess what it is.
That said, though, Gwen does get quite a lot of character development. She learns to come to terms with that Big Thing that she did. Through her interactions with Cassidy and her summer job, she learns to be less judgmental of the ~rich people~ in her coastal town. She also learns that people don’t stay the same, good or bad. This story is after all more her personal journey rather than anything else.
“That what you’ve always had doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll always get. That what you’ve always wanted isn’t what you’ll always want.”
The second strike was that I can’t say that I really cared for the other characters or the romance. Cass was fine, but he didn’t leave much of an impression to me except that he was a gentleman, and even that was reinforced multiple times throughout the book. He made a good match for Gwen, but standing among Fitzpatrick’s other heroes, he was honestly quite forgettable.
There were also in my opinion too many subplots. Gwen doesn’t only have to deal with her personal issues — she also has to deal with other problems. There’s her cousin Nic and his relationship with Viv, Gwen’s best friend; there’s the rich Mrs. E and the issue of her son and her money; there’s Gwen’s brother… not all of this was resolved, so I was kind of disappointed by some of it.
The saving grace is that Fitzpatrick’s writing is solid as always. Somehow she managed to deliver a message that sounds beautiful, understandable, and is not preachy at the same time. Many authors are guilty of stringing pretty words together and hoping that somehow readers get it, but not Fitzpatrick. What she writes makes sense on all counts — it’s kind of reminiscent of how Sarah Dessen (queen of realistic contemporary YA, as far as I’m concerned) does it.
“Sometimes we hold on to something—a person, a resentment, a regret, an idea of who we are—because we don’t know what to reach for next.”
As far as contemporary YA goes, What I Thought Was True sadly didn’t meet my expectations, with its really slow pacing and occasionally confused plot. I would recommend it only if you’re a huge, huge fan of Fitzpatrick and have finished her other (better, in my opinion) books.