Title: The Summer of My Skinny Dipping
Author: Amanda Howells
Release date: June 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Fire
Arc copy provided by Publisher
After getting dumped by her boyfriend, sixteen-year-old Mia Gordon is looking forward to spending a relaxing summer in the Hamptons with her glamorous cousins. But Corine, has better things to do—like ditch Mia at a party.
That’s when Mia meets boy-next-door Simon Ross. After devising a secret signaling system, Mia and Simon meet up nightly to swim in the cool, dark ocean and lie on the beach, talking and looking at the stars, Neither feels like they belong in the exclusive resort community.
Mia isn’t looking for love that summer, but she finds it. She finds a funny, artistic boy who lives boldly. She finds someone who understands her. And she finds herself (Publisher’s summary from back cover).
When I first read the publisher’s summary, I thought The Summer of Skinning Dipping was going to be a typical girl meets boy romance novel, and honestly, I am not a huge fan of that particular plot setup. However, what I found was a much more complicated story about relationships and a few other surprises as well.
The first surprise is how much I really liked this story. Howell’s writing is descriptive and authentic. She definitely has a strong sense of how to create characters you either love or really dislike. Mia’s is extremely likable. She has a strong sense of self and even though she lacks self-confidence in some areas, her evaluations about herself and those around her are usually spot on. After being dumped by her high school boyfriend the one thing she wants, besides being at the beach all summer, is to hang with her cousin Corine. Unfortunately, the Corine Mia remembers from their childhood has grown up into a very self-centered snob. Mia ends up being the country bumpkin, which exacerbates Mia’s feelings of inadequacies. The only problem I had with Mia was I really wanted her to go off on her cousins, and her mother long before she did. When she did finally speak her mind, she was a lot nicer than I would have been.
Another surprise was Simon and how Mia’s relationship with him played out. I loved how he just showed up uninvited to Mia’s cousin’s party and how after Mia is ditched, Simon begins to discuss The Great Gatsby and call Mia, Daisy. As the story unfolds Mia and Simon begin spending nights together on the beach, and a strong friendship builds. Simon is a risk taker and helps Mia to stop being such a cautious person. Through their interactions Mia learns how great it feels to be more spontaneous. In the end Mia realizes just how much Simon has come to mean to her, and without meaning to she falls in love with him.
The best surprise in this story was Howells’ insights into the precarious nature of relationships, and she uses these insights to create a much more complicated story than boy meets girl. Mia’s relationship with her mother for example is very strained. Her mother always seems to dote on Mia’s younger sister, who has her mother’s beauty while Mia is average looking. It doesn’t seem to matter to her mother that Mia is smart and has goals to become a marine biologist someday. Another interesting relationship is Mia’s adoration of her aunt. Mia’s perception of Corine’s mother is very different than Corine’s. As the summer progresses Mia begins to see that not everything is as it seems even with people you think you know. There is also the strained relationship between Simon and his father. Simon does not want to be like his father who is all about appearances and making money. His father is tyrannical to the point of abuse, but Simon’s strength lies in his clear understanding of himself despite what others think.
The ending also reveals a huge surprise, which of course I will not reveal, but I will say that Howell crafted the ending in such a way that I didn’t see it coming. Many of the relationship issues are revealed and some are resolved. Howell did not rush to wrap everything up, which I found extremely satisfying.
The Summer of My Skinny Dipping is the perfect beach read. Mia is a well-drawn character with a beautiful clear voice. She is very easy to relate and connect to, and the romance is one that drew me in. I believe that the various relationships between the characters helped make this about more than a summer romance novel. So, if you are like me and want more than a romance novel to occupy your time this summer, then The Summer of My Skinny Dipping will definitely fit the bill.