Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

 I first saw Invincible Summer in May on a display of teen summer books at my local bookstore. I generally don't like "summer books" or "beach reads," Sarah Dessen's books being the notable exception.

I still glanced at it, because the cover kind of confused me (she's on her back, by the way, if that helps.) and I know that covers don't always accurately represent the words in a book. I flipped the book over, determined to at least read the summary, and found it far too fluffy and romancey, so I put the book down. This was clearly not my kind of book.

Then, in mid-July (July 21st, to be exact), Lauren DeStefano urged everyone on Twitter to follow Hannah Moskowitz. I clicked over to Hannah's feed  and saw a link to a blog post she wrote about a cover redesign contest for IS. About halfway down the page was a link to another blog post from earlier this year, about the controversy surrounding the cover. I read that post. And I was absolutely horrified with myself.

I  had convinced myself that IS was some vapid summer book, and then I promptly forgot about it. This was obviously not the case. This was a book that had a devoted fan base, a cover controversy, and, what really made me interested, it was about sign language. Hannah said something in that post that really drove me to get a copy of the book. What she said was, "When you don't pick up a book because of its cover, you are not punishing the design team.... You are punishing the author."

I went and ordered it from the bookstore soon after. This in itself was a huge leap of faith for me. I only buy books I am very sure I will read a million times and cherish and love. I did not know that Invincible Summer would be one of those books, but I was determined to give Hannah Moskowitz and her book a second chance, since I didn't really give either a first one.

It took absolutely forever to arrive, and when it finally did, I waited to begin it until I could give it my undivided attention. I quickly realized I needed to have a pencil handy while reading it, as it is one of those books that begs to be marked in, like required reading that you grow to love. A lot of the marked passages are just Camus quotes, but a fair bit is writing in the margins in response to a character or underlining lines that hint at a greater truth.

Don't go into Invincible Summer expecting a beach read. It isn't one. The closest comparison I have is Shiver in the summer with sand instead of snow, and sibling-love instead of romantic-love. IS is the kind of novel that finds truth and rips it open even further to find an even deeper truth. It's the kind of book I want to recommend to everyone I know or see, but I know that for most people, it will be "too something," and they will not read it.

IS is a rare kind of book. I hate that because of closed-minded people like past-me who won't read it, it is likely to be lost in the shuffle. And that would be an enormously wasteful tragedy. So ignore the back cover summary and the tagline. This book is not about Melinda. Melinda is a distraction. She isn't the one on the cover. That would be Claudia. Claudia, the 11/12/13/14-year old who gets in trouble for wearing makeup and indecent exposure and kissing a waitress and not reading Camus. Claudia, who is both so so young and so so old. You-as-the-reader want to plead with her to cling to her innocence.

I think that at its core, Invincible Summer is about the loss of innocence and our struggle to accept it. It is also about love and acceptance and being yourself and trying, no matter how hard it may be. It's the kind of book I would love to have the chance to pick apart and analyze in a critical essay.

Don't just take my word for it. Go check it out of the library , buy it, or borrow it from a friend. Then, when you're done, pass it on. A story like this deserves to live on forever. Or at least, as long as summers hold a special place in our hearts.

hannah's blog, formspring, Twitter, and website.