Cover of What I Thought Was True with a girl and boy standing on the beach

About the Book

Title: What I Thought Was True
Published: 2014
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Photoshop Heaven
BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh
Talky Talk: The School of Sarah Dessen
Bonus Factors: Beach Town, Diversity, Kickass Gramps, The Golden Girls
Relationship Status: Summer Lovin’

Cover Story: Photoshop Heaven

Not only is this cover where good Photoshop went to die, it also looks like some kind of afterlife book. Either that, or one of the two figures is a ghost doing some lighthearted flirting haunting. (And there are no ghosts in this book, FYI. Nor are there any Christ-like miracles, because seriously, how are they walking on the water like that?)

The Deal:

Living on an East Coast island seems like a pretty good gig, but when you’re a girl with a bad reputation and a blue collar family, life’s less of a beach and more of a bitch. After Gwen Castle made the mistake of hooking up with three different members of the swim team, she’s looking forward to a summer of avoiding everyone from school except for her bestie, Vivien, and her cousin, Nico, who lives in the house Gwen shares with her mom, her grandfather and her handicapped little brother, Emory. Unfortunately, Cassidy Somers, one of Gwen’s mistakes, has accepted a job as the island “yard boy,” and he seems intent on being a part of her world, in spite of his wealthy background. Rather than repeat the past, Gwen is determined to focus on her responsible plans for the future, but as the sun melts the lines between black and white, the straight and narrow is suddenly full of twists and turns.

BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh

BFF charm with Roger Murtagh from Lethal Weapon's face.

Given that she’s worked since she was a kid and taken care of her brother since he was born, Gwen is basically a grown-up. And yet, SHE IS SO NOT A GROWN-UP. I mean, yes, she’s independent, and she’s smart, and she’s got a fiery spirit, but HOLY HELL this girl could use a quarter for a WAKE-UP CALL, primarily in the boy department. I know she’s a teenager, and therefore she’s allowed to be stupid about guys, but my brain is too old to make a full recovery from this much headdesking.

With that said, my frustration only proves that I dug this gal and wanted her to STOP BEING AN IDIOT so she could finally be happy.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Lawd have mercy, that Cassidy Somers is a FINE SPECIMEN. He’s got a swimmer’s bod, a devil’s charm and a gentleman’s manners, and I would not mind taking a trip TO HIS PANTS. Scorching the pages with his presence, Cass pursues Gwen slowly yet doggedly, stoking the fires of their chemistry until EXPLOSIONS! OF! HOTNESS! HAPPEN! And, lest you think it’s only sexy business, the romance between Gwen and Cass also sparkles with sweetness and tender emotion. But also, the sex.

Talky Talk: The School of Sarah Dessen

Not only did Huntley Fitzpatrick attend the School of Sarah Dessen, she graduated with mothercussing honors. This book goes down nice and easy like a beach read while exploring the complexities of adolescence, providing a great deal of substance underneath the summery fluff. Dynamic and earnest, Gwen’s narration is fresh and bracing like an ocean breeze that tugs you easily through the story. I would say that this novel is perfect for poolside, except for the fact that once you crack it open, you’ll ignore the pool completely.

Bonus Factor: Beach Town

Blue house on the beach with a dock and a palm tree

Gwen would most definitely roll her eyes at me for saying this, but Seashell Island so charming!!! There’s her dad’s restaurant, Castle’s, and sailboats and beach bonfires and late night swimming and seriously, anyone up for a road trip?

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

Gwen is half white and half Portuguese, and her cultural background is woven naturally into her homelife and highlighted in particular by her grandfather. More on him below.

Bonus Factor: Kickass Gramps

Peter Falk from The Princess Bride with a mischievous twinkle in his eye

Grandpa Ben is the shizz. He fishes illegally, packs a pipe when he’s stressed and constantly watches classic movies with eight-year-old Emory, in whom he has instilled a love for Frank Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn. I love him to pieces.

Bonus Factor: Golden Girls

Three of the Golden Girls talking and laughing together

Gwen lands a summer job taking care of Mrs. Ellington, a wealthy, straight-talkin’ old broad who hangs with a rowdy crew of lady octogenarians. They make daily trips to the beach, then sit on the porch and listen to Gwen read trashy romance novels out loud. They are basically what FYA hopes to be when we’re eighty, is what I’m saying.

Relationship Status: Summer Lovin’

It happened so fast, and yes, I had me a blast, but this book was more than a summer fling. We spent just as much time having meaningful conversations as we did goofing off on the boardwalk, and our attraction extended far deeper than the physical realm.

But ahhh, oooooh those summer nights!!!!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Dial Books. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review.

Sarah splits her time between Dallas and Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.