Review: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: What I Thought Was True by Huntley FitzpatrickWhat I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Published by Dial BFYR on April 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars

From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.

Though I loved My Life Next Door overall and was really impressed with the characterization, I was equal parts anticipating and fearing Fitzpatrick’s follow-up. I mean, I had some issues with MLND too, which I found to be somewhat uneven. Plus, you just never know with an author’s sophomore effort. Thankfully, despite What I Thought Was True taking a bit to really grab me, once it did, it never let go for a second. If anything, I have to say that I think What I Thought Was True is a stronger novel, more balanced and with even more powerful themes.

Fitzpatrick brings back the elements that made My Life Next Door so utterly charming. There’s a sweet romance and, more importantly, realistic portrayals of so many kinds of families. What I Thought Was True manages to walk that line between being fluffy and being dark perfectly well. It’s both inspiring and believably realistic. It’s not the sort of book where everyone rides off into the sunset and their story feels complete. They head off into the rest of their lives, and will grow into different people, but that’s a good thing.

The only weakness What I Thought Was True had for me was that it took a while for me to get really invested. There are quite a lot of flashbacks and withheld information at the start, so I wasn’t sure what to make of anyone, including the heroine, Gwen. However, as things began to unravel, my heart went out to her, this beautiful, insecure, intelligent, hard-working, loving girl. Gwen’s been helping to raise her younger brother, Emory, who’s not autistic, but is definitely different somehow. She’s been working to help support the family since she could legally help out in her dad’s diner.

Believe it or not, though, Gwen actually has a really bad reputation. And, no, what people say about her is not all lies. Of course, it’s not all truths either, because gossip never is. Gwen has had one night stands, a fact with which she has a complicated relationship. She always wanted the sex and she doesn’t blame anyone but herself, but she also can’t escape feeling like a worthless slut. My heart went out to her forever when she said this, totally honestly:

“I’m really not the kind of girl who gets walked to the door.”

That sound you hear is my heart smashing into pieces on the ground. Society seriously does a number on women. Gwen’s had sex and, though it’s 2014, she’s made to feel like some sort of Hester Prynne for it, even though it was consentual, safe, and involved no infidelity. All of her bad thoughts about herself are the result of the sort of pernicious slut-shaming so common to society. The people who know her well and love her best even question her choices and subtly shame her, without even meaning to. At the same time, guys with similar representations are rewarded with popularity.

Of course, this is a Fitzpatrick novel, so this is not a condemnation of sex. What I Thought Was True goes on the list of sex positive YA novels, which is sadly rather short. On top of that, Fitzpatrick resists the trope of the first love being the last, which is so common in YA. She shows how strong relationships don’t always make it and that love isn’t always enough. Not only that, but What I Thought Was True overthrows stereotypes, like having women be the less experienced in relationships and the idea that women do not have sex drives:

God, isn’t it supposed to be the guys who can’t think straight? Whose bodies are screaming at their brains to just shut up because everything feels so good? Or is that another rumor someone started? Without thinking who it was going to hurt. Or just confuse.

This myth, that men enjoy sex more than women do as a rule, may not seem harmful, but it tears Gwen up. She feels like a monster, a deviant, for enjoying sex. That’s not healthy and it’s not a way that people should be made to feel. Books like What I Thought Were True help to change that and put the truth, that everything is more complicated, into the world. Bravo, Huntley Fitzpatrick. This is one of the healthiest YA novels dealing with sex that I’ve read, and I can’t urge it on you enough for this aspect alone.

In case that’s not enough to convince you, though, this book has so much more to offer. As I touched on earlier, the family elements of the book are amazing as well. Fitzpatrick shows a wide range of families, mostly non-traditional. Some of them function in their own strange way, and some of them don’t, but none are perfect. Gwen’s parents are divorced and at any given time a couple of them are usually fighting, but ultimately they do all love each other. The family is Gwen, Emory, father (who lives separately), mother, Grandpa, and Nic, Gwen’s cousin, who was raised basically as a sibling since his mom couldn’t handle parenting. My favorite family member was the grandpa, who’s Portuguese and a total shipper. He rather reminded me of the grandpa in Moonstruck.

By the end of the novel, I know something about the families of all of the significant characters. That is so rare. But, let’s be honest, when you’re a teenager, your family is a huge part of your life, whether you want them to be or not, so that stuff comes up. This is part of why Fitzpatrick’s novels and characters come alive in a way that isn’t often found in fiction.

Fitzpatrick also doesn’t neglect what so many YA novels do, which is planning for life after high school. A lot of YA fiction happens in a vacuum where no one worries about college or careers. I don’t know about everyone else, but I was thinking about college from sophomore year on, so I really love when books include elements of planning for whatever the teens might want to do next. All of the main teen characters in What I Thought Was True are considering this, and I love that so much.

Oh, I also need to give a shout out to Mrs. Ellington, an elderly woman for whom Gwen is working over the summer. This woman is fantastic. The only other wish I have for What I Thought Was True was that Mrs. Ellington didn’t completely disappear from the story for chunks of it. She’s an old woman with an active social life, a lot of opinions, and a deep love for romance novels, both for sheer joy and the fun of snarking them.

Finally, before I conclude this incredibly long review, I want to speak to the romance, because of course I do. At the beginning, I really wasn’t sure if I’d be a fan of this ship, and I was afraid it would ruin the book for me. Let’s just say that it took me a bit of time to come around, just like it took Gwen some time to warm up to the idea. Fitzpatrick really made me root for them, and the evolution of the relationship is a thing of beauty, respectful and bantery and argumentative all at once. Their problems are their own, and not the cause of absurd drama.

In case you couldn’t already tell from the freaking treatise I just wrote, I loved this novel on so many levels, and I think it’s a must read for its take on sexuality, not to mention the fact that Fitzpatrick is a genius at characterization. Huntley Fitzpatrick’s been highly buzzed for a reason: she deserves it. She’s officially on my auto-buy list.

Favorite Quote:

View Spoiler »

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

oh my god so amazing

12 responses to “Review: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick”

  1. Nara says:

    I definitely agree with what you said about the difficulty of getting into the book at first. It’s one of those stories that sneaks up on you and then suddenly grabs you!
    I LOVED the family aspect of things! It’s so rare that you get a YA book with such a big focus on family relationships. lol the grandpa was totally the biggest shipper 😛 Also the mum kept saying “is he the polite one with the abs?” and that cracked me up.
    Huntley Fitzpatrick is most definitely on my auto-buy author list as well! Especially if her books continue to have matching spines. They look so pretty together on the shelf 😀

    Also a heads up: your spoiler tag isn’t working for your favourite quote, so the quote isn’t hidden 🙂
    Nara recently posted…Fairytale Parallels in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa MeyerMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Oooh, okay, good to know it wasn’t a slow start just for me. I thought I might have been in the wrong mood initially or something. Ha, yes, “the polite one with the abs.” Yum. That was so funny. Her family is so dysfunctionally functional.

      *sighs* I had a feeling I’d messed that up, but last night I finished this really late and I was exhausted, so I didn’t reopen my laptop to double check. It’s not super spoilery, but it’s the very end, so I wanted to be safe.

  2. fakesteph says:

    I literally started this last night (well, like 2% of it) and I am so excited to get back to reading it today!
    fakesteph recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Life by Committee by Corey Ann HayduMy Profile

  3. I’ve been hearing really wonderful things about What I Thought Was True, but I’m just not sure it’s for me. I liked My Life Next Door, but I wasn’t as in love as so many other people where.

    I am glad that Fitzpatrick really shows how women can like sex, too, though. And how much slutshaming can affect people.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Review: The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher HealyMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Hmmm, I would say that depends on which aspects of MLND you didn’t like. For me, though I did love the characters enough to still be really happy with it, the second half was clunky. This one doesn’t have anything like that.

      It is, however, very character-focused and not particularly plot-focused, so it depends what you read for primarily.

  4. I haven’t read MLND yet, but I do have it, and I’m really excited to get to it, and I really think that I’ll enjoy it and enjoy this book too. So many people love Fitzpatrick, and I really hope I end up loving her too. You’re review was wonderful Christina, and the length wasn’t off-putting, I skim-read, but it was still fantastic 🙂
    Amanda @ Book Badger recently posted…Book Review – The Year of the RatMy Profile

  5. I have mixed feeling about WITWT: I like the main plot and the complexity of the MC, but I thought the subplot with the best friend & boyfriend was kind of boring. I get that it was supposed to balance out the story, but it did nothing for me. I loved the Gwen though.
    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books recently posted…Killer Instinct: Guest Post + GiveawayMy Profile

  6. Ellis says:

    Hello hello I’m super excited to see your long-ass review and I’m going to position myself in this comment box because I need to return later because this book will be waiting for me when I go to delivery address numero uno tomorrow and opinion influenciation and all that. (Shhh, totes a word.)

    Also you are awesome just felt it had to be said I will be back I promise kay bye. Also YAY WORDS.
    Ellis recently posted…Top Twenty YA Heroines I Want In My Apocalypse Dream TeamMy Profile

  7. Wow this sounds like an amazing book! I love the whole idea that WITWT handles the idea of expectations between men and women regarding sex and how these expectations really affect Gwen mentally. I feel like this one’s going to be super emotional with all of the amazing aspects that MLND had and more. Fantastic review, Christina! <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…Tease by Amanda MacielMy Profile

  8. Oh my god, I need this book. I love the sound of this. How Fitzpatrick handles the sex and the expectations and everything sounds fantastic, and it’s especially relevant in today’s society where women and young girls are being told that they shouldn’t enjoy sex unless they’re in a long term relationship, but men are applauded for sleeping with (often seen as conquering, vomit) a new woman every week. *cries* I need to get paid so I can buy this.
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  9. I loved this one, too. I really enjoyed MLND and was so excited, if a bit nervous, to start this one, but I was pulled in immediately. I also love how Fitzpatrick writes positive, realistic novels that deal with sex in a healthy way. Also, I thought the secondary characters of this novel were such strong additions. I loved Gwen’s family, Mrs. Ellington and her romance novels, and the focus on Nic and his girlfriend. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what she puts out next. Great review!
    Natalie @Natflix&Books recently posted…Killer Instinct (Early Book Review)My Profile

  10. I love the treatise you wrote for this one! I didn’t love it as much as My Life Next Door (which holds a special place in my heart) but there are still so many things about it that I did love, mostly how honest it all was and how well-rounded (which seems to be her style). I did have trouble understanding the order of events, with all the flashbacks and what not, and I think Gwen objectified herself (while accusing Cass of objectifying her) but these didn’t prevent me from appreciating and enjoying the story in the end. I agree in that I wish we got more of Mrs. E! Anyway, great review!
    Nicole @ The Quiet Concert recently posted…April 2014 RecapMy Profile

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