Review: Invincible Summer

One family. Four summers. A whole lotta heartbreak.

Warning: Do not read Invincible Summer while wearing eye makeup. If you choose to read this book in public, do so at your own risk.

There has been a lot of talk about Invincible Summer’s cover. This book looks like a beach book full of romance from the outside, but the inside is just about the farthest thing from that. Hannah Moskowitz wrote an amazing post about her cover, so rather than go on about it, I’ll let her words speak for themselves. Basically, this is a book about family, and while the cover sells to some, you should not let it dissuade you from reading the book if you are not part of the marketing team’s target demographic. Authors can rarely control covers, but they can control tear duct activity, and Moskowitz knows how to give those things a workout.

Chase, Noah, Claudia, Gideon and their parents return to the same beach house every summer. The sand and the water are like a second home, and their neighbors a second family. Over the years, though, relationships change. Chase, the book’s narrator, must learn that the older brother he admires isn’t always going to be there for him. Noah wants to get away from his family unit, finding their problems claustrophobic, while Chase wants to bring them all closer together. Claudia is growing up, and as the only female in the brood of siblings, her burgeoning sexuality is a matter of great discomfort for everyone. Gideon, who is deaf, is growing increasingly inquisitive, but his family’s inability to communicate with him is also developing into a larger problem. All the while, the parents of these kids are having their own marital issues, struggling themselves to provide a cohesive family structure.

Invincible Summer is about a family coming together and falling apart. It is about people who love each other without always knowing how to love. It is about brothers who share everything, from girls to Camus, but also constantly push each other away. This is a coming of age story in the truest sense; though his family may be unraveling over the course of four summers, Chase himself is growing up and figuring out what he stands for and who he is.

Part of Chase’s personal philosophy develops through his reading of Camus, and quotes are sprinkled throughout the text. I know these quotes are not for for everyone, but as someone who enjoys Camus and existentialism, I really appreciated them. I was impressed by Moskowitz’s ability to find a quote for every occasion. For characters who frequently don’t know how to express themselves, the use of somebody else’s words seemed a fitting substitute. As lovers of words and literature, I think we all come across quotes where it feels like an author has put our own feelings into words in a way that feels true and yet unlike anything we could have said ourselves. Camus serves as a mouthpiece for these characters. His writing gives Chase and Noah, and to a lesser extent their younger siblings, a means of verbalizing their experiences without the vulnerability of using their own words.

Moskowitz’s characters are realistic and flawed. One second you will love them and the next they’ll drive you crazy. That’s what family is all about, right? Invincible Summer is charming and frustrating, funny and tragic, and it will crush your heart when you least expect it. I loved everything about this book: structure, pacing, writing. It’s a brilliant, mature work that I think will yield even more depth with rereading. Invincible Summer is a book I could come back to every year, inevitably finding something new each time.

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