The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi

Reparative therapy is so gay. It’s a lesson Lexi Hamilton learns her first day at New Horizons, a summer camp for teens experiencing same-sex attraction.


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One of these things is not like the others: 

 

A) art therapy

B) reparative therapy

C) massage therapy

D) aromatherapy

 

Which one of these things just doesn’t belong?

 

“B” straight with me, and you’ll be free and queer: reparative therapy is so gay.

 

It’s a lesson Lexi Hamilton learns her first day at New Horizons, a summer camp for teens struggling with SSA, a.k.a. same-sex attraction. For eight weeks straight, the heat is on, and no amount of sunscreen will keep these kids from burning in hell unless they steer clear of homosexuality.

 

Lexi’s here because she’s queer and her mother can’t get used to it. After Mr. Hamilton dies, Mrs. Hamilton lies in mourning, and when she discovers her daughter’s dykedom, Southern bells and whistles start going off, further aggrieving the grieving widow. That grief turns to relief, however, when Lexi agrees to try and reorient her orientation.

 

Lexi enters New Horizons as a 17-year-old aspiring fashion designer. Now, she’s expected to be fashionably straight in her new camp costume: a wardrobe with enough pink to rival Victoria’s Secret. Lexi is not a happy camper. 

 

Neither are the others, all of them enrolled against their will and with more than their fill of familial rejection. All of them except Carolyn, a 16-year-old whose reasons for being here are… well, queer. After her girlfriend breaks her heart, Carolyn becomes convinced it’s better to be straight than sorry, and so, against her parents’ wishes, she decides to spend the summer with her nose buried in The Good Book, learning how to pray away the gay and play at being straight.

 

Lexi takes an instant liking to Carolyn, which puts a sizable dent in her plan to be not bent. Naturally. God laughs at even the best-prayed plans, and now the counselors, some of whom are New Horizons success stories, and the camp director, a man who’s both self-deified and de-gayified, have really got their work cut out for them. So, too, does Lexi, who’s petrified of confessing her feelings for fear of rejection—from Carolyn, from New Horizons, from her mother.

 

Lexi is uncharacteristically but convincingly selfless for a teenager. She thinks before she speaks, acts, and reacts, and is realistic without being pessimistic. Carolyn is also an uncommon character. Like her favorite author Jane Austen, she possesses both sense and sensibility and has more pride than prejudice. With little persuasion, this book will make you think of But I’m a Cheerleader, but the author writes with a queer conscience and her focus is more empirical than satirical. It’s hard-hitting, not side-splitting, although it is by no means a depressing read.

 

In fact, perhaps some good will come out. Of the evils of reparative therapy, that is. Maybe Lexi will have a gay old time at camp after all—if she can help Carolyn and her mother to see beyond New Horizons to new horizons.

 

 

 

 

 

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