Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells - Book Review #63

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The Summer of Skinny Dipping
by Amanda Howells

"Sometimes I still wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of looking up at the moon and feeling as invisible and free as a fish. But I'm jumping ahead, and to tell the story right I have to go back to the very beginning. To a place called Indigo Beach. To a boy with pale skin that glowed against the dark waves. To the start of something neither of us could have predicted, and which would mark us forever, making everything that came after and before seem like it belonged to another life.

My name is Mia Gordon: I was sixteen years old, and I remember everything...."

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Mia is looking forward to spending a relaxing summer in the Hamptons with her glamorous cousins. But when she arrives she finds her cousins distant, moody, and caught up with a fast crowd. Mia finds herself lonelier than ever, until she meets her next-door-neighbor, Simon Ross. And from the very first time he encourages her to go skinny dipping, she's caught in a current impossible to resist.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Green Sea by Milton Avery, while Kind of Blue by Miles Davis is playing. Unfortunately, this is not my comparison. All these works were at least mentioned and sometimes played not the last role in the book. I wish I would be able to describe a book by using one book, one painting and one song. But this is not me, this is all Amanda Howells.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping is a romantic and tragic, beautiful and sad, funny and unsettling, reassuring and thoughtful. It also touches most of the issues that teenagers are going though – substance abuse, fist love, fist lost, fitting in, love the skin you are in, distraction of childhood illusions (delusions?) and relationship with family. It pretty much has it all for coming-of-age book. However, this is not why I loved this book.

Amanda Howells swept me away with her talent for creating settings. On one hand it wasn’t over descriptive or wordy, on the other, it wasn’t dry. It also wasn’t separated from narration of the story. It was interlaced into the story itself. And it was done so delicate that the whole time I was reading this book, I could swear that it was a night and I was in Southampton on the beach. I could smell the ocean, I could hear it roaring. I could feel the sand between my toes. I could see the moon shine and distant lights, and I could hear the music playing somewhere far away. It was me, not Mia who was sitting on the roof, looking into pitch black and feeling the ocean breath on my cheeks.

I wouldn’t call this book a vacation read. I would call it a vacation itself. I would recommend this book to any teenager that would listen. The Summer of Skinny Dipping is Amanda Howells‘s debut novel and I’m anxious to see what she will create in the future. I wish her best of luck and at least for now, she got herself another faithful reader.


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