Sunday, 22 May 2011

Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

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.... 

My review:
Much of the talk about Invincible Summer has been about how misleading the cover and description are. After reading the book, I find it funny to imagine how the people involved must have hunted through the pages for the one paragraph and one sentence that could sound salacious when taken out of context, to use for the blurb and tagline.

So, a more apt description would be to say that this book covers four consecutive summers in the life of the McGill family and the focus is on their family. They’re a big brood; four kids with another on the way. Noah is the eldest and feels constricted by having so many people attached to him, Chase (the narrator) wants to keep everybody happy and together and pre-teen Claudia wants to grow up too fast. However, they all adore and take care of youngest brother Gideon, whose deafness means he’s more dependent than other children. One thing I liked straightaway was the portrayal of a close, tight-knit group of siblings. I feel like most books/films/TV shows promote the idea of friendship over family and while I understand that’s the experience of many people, it wasn’t for me and it’s nice to read about somebody whose brothers and sisters are his best friends.

The story has communication as one of its big themes and the characters often fight about what’s not being said or how they’re not saying it. I found the portrayal of Gideon’s deafness to be eye-opening. Whenever I’ve seen a deaf character in a movie, the family members are just signing everything they say with ease. If the deaf character is an adult, even their boyfriend or girlfriend will be proficient. So it’s never actually occurred to me until reading Invincible Summer that sign language is as hard for an adult to become fluent in as any other language and you might not be that good at it. The thought of not being able to truly talk to my brother just fills me with horror and Invincible Summer really gives a rounded portrayal of what it means to have a deaf child in the family – it’s definitely not just Magical Cripples and their Life Lessons.

I thought all the members of the McGill family had very vivid personalities. In fact, I actually felt Chase was the least interesting one. I often wished the narrative could follow Noah when he ran away, or Gideon to deaf-school or let us see what was going on in Claudia’s head. Chase’s conversations with Noah did remind me of heart-to-hearts I’ve had with my sister and when he was overly dramatic (which was often), I felt pretty embarrassed because I remember being just as dramatic back then. It was realistic for the type of kids they were and the type of relationship they had, but as someone older, looking back at that time, I really wanted Chase to just cool it sometimes. However, I did not have a problem with the Camus quotes. In my experience of being part of a large family, you like to have things that only you share and understand. I don’t think it matters whether it’s lines from a cartoon or a French philosopher, what matters is that it’s a ‘thing’ between you all.

As for the love triangle that’s featured in the blurb, it’s more weird than sexy. I felt that the story was unkind to Melinda, or as it’s from Chase viewpoint, I should say that I thought Chase was very unkind to Melinda. This might be an unusual opinion, because Melinda dallying with Chase is completely inappropriate, but something terrible has happened to her and I felt that there was a distinct lack of sympathy from the boys. Maybe it’s because I’m female, but I felt that what Melinda had suffered was the bigger deal in all that.

In hindsight, the tragedy that occurs in the novel was foreshadowed throughout – there’s this underlying tension always bubbling; you always feel that something is going to happen. Still, I bawled my eyes out. I’d taken the characters to heart and I hated to see that happen to them. Surprisingly, though, I don’t think it ended on a downer as such. Somehow, you feel, the McGill family will still go on.

Rating: 4 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you visit this blog, please comment! I really do appreciate and read every one and try to answer back as much as possible.