Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Invincible SummerInvincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

At first glance, Invincible Summer might seem like a shallow summer romance. In fact, I was expecting something akin to a second rate Sarah Dessen knock-off, perhaps Along for the Ride: Male POV. Imagine my surprise when I discover that this is, more or less, John Green: Summer Love with Family Conflict. Never again will I judge a book by it's cover--although I should have learned this lesson after reading Twilight.

Summary: Noah’s happier than I’ve seen him in months. So I’d be an awful brother to get in the way of that. It’s not like I have some relationship with Melinda. It was just a kiss. Am I going to ruin Noah’s happiness because of a kiss?

Across four sun-kissed, drama-drenched summers at his family’s beach house, Chase is falling in love, falling in lust, and trying to keep his life from falling apart. But some girls are addictive....

Invincible Summer is complete with pretentious kids, an unattainable girl, and familial conflict; all of which make for an interesting read. If made into a movie, it would be a smart comedy--otherwise known as a comedy-drama--following in the footsteps of The Royal Tenenbaums, Juno, and Little Miss Sunshine.

Our narrator is Chase 'Everboy' McGill. His namesake comes from JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan. Apparently, his designated love interest deemed that he would stay young forever. See what I mean about pretentious kids?

We follow Chase over the course of four summers. In essence, this is a coming of age story. It's not up to par with Looking for Alaska or The Catcher in the Rye, but it explores themes neither were willing to discuss.

Chase is sensitive and naive. That's the extent of his personality. In league with his literary counterpart, Holden Caulfield, he wants to remain young and innocent for the rest of his life.

His Phoebe is Claudia; a girl who wants to be an adult without suffering any of the consequences. His Ally is Gideon; a cute, deaf little boy. His DB is Noah, although Noah isn't a phony.

In addition to his siblings, we're presented with another family. Melinda, our designated love interest, Shannon, the best-friend and Bella, the Jane.

The main problem with Invincible Summer is that it suffers from character soup. We're presented with more than five main characters, but they aren't allowed to progress past their base stereotypes. They remain two-dimensional throughout the entire story, which is detrimental to a character driven story. When you think Moskowitz is allowing one character the opportunity to development, another character interrupts and the story goes into an entirely different direction. However, Moskowitz has a talent for introducing characters. When Melinda and Noah were introduced, I immediately grasped their personalities.

Her prose isn't bad either. While Invincible Summer starts out slow, by the second chapter it really picks up. But the Camus quotes are entirely pretentious and unneeded. If accompanied by other poets, like TS Elliot or Dylan Thomas, I would have accepted that these kids were just that smart. As it stands, they are pretentious without the intelligence that goes with being pretentious. Yes, I like that word.

Moskowitz also has a way with capturing emotions. Unlike Blue Valentine, Invincible Summer is emotional roller-coaster where you understand not only the what, but the how.

Unfortunately, towards the end, I'm unable to sympathize with Chase because the build up to the climax is insufficient and predictable. If you know of JM Barrie's childhood, or if you've read The Catcher in the Rye, you'll understand what I mean.

In most coming of age stories, the parents are neglected to focus on other issues. Here, the parents are a major force, but they are poorly developed. However, much like bitchsquealer in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I learned a new curse word.

Now, onto my favorite aspect of this novel: the destructive love triangle.

I've not discussed this topic previously, but pretend that I have. While Chase is the protagonist, Melinda is the main character. The main character forces the protagonist to change. Often, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is the main character. Who changes in Looking for Alaska? Who remains static? The novel is about Alaska, hence she is the main character. But the protagonist is Miles. The main character is often known as the Christ figure, but that's a discussion for another time.

Melinda is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who is no-longer a dream girl. In fact, she's a nightmare. She's everything Chase wants, but can't have--until suddenly, she wants to have sex with him. She's like Louisa, from Y Tu Mama Tambien; an MPDG who's all grown up.

At first, I thought Melinda would evolve from this worn out stereotype, but sadly, this doesn't happen. We're given a taste of all the potential she has, but that dissipates after they have sex. Their whole relationship consists of sex, illegal sex at that. Melinda is six years older than Chase, but it doesn't seem like that. Until I was told, I guessed that she was only two or three years his elder.

Melinda sleeps with him because she knows that he would never leave her. For a while, I was getting predatory vibes from her, and they were enhanced from my knowledge of psychology. Delving into this would be a spoiler, so I'll leave it up to your imagination.

Also, we're given a love triangle, but none of the conflict that comes with one. Chase feels used, but this is never explored. Instead, we place the blame on Melinda. I think the explanation for her actions is a bit weak. If it was a big reveal, I would have felt differently. Instead, we're told up front and it's never discussed. Thankfully, Moskowitz doesn't allow a girl to come between the two brothers.

Don't get me wrong; I think Moskowitz is a pretty good writer. If fleshed out, this would have been a solid four star book. Sadly, the interesting conversations take up very little space and Chase's inner narration--which, by and large, is somewhat boring--causes an irregular pacing issue.

Yes, I would definitely check out her other books.

Disclaimer: I received this book through Galley Grab. No outside sources influenced this review. In fact, I think Harper Teen blacklisted me after the bad reviews I wrote for them.


  1. hi cory! im aleeza from goodreads. don't know if you remember me, but a new follower :)
    i have pretty similar views of the book too. while it was a pretty heavy read, some stuff wasn't really tied up that well. i also agree that the cover is really deceptive. but then again, im pretty sure everyone has the views about the cover :D

  2. i meant--'the same views about the cover'...:)

  3. @Aleeza: I follow your reviews on GoodReads too. :D I'm not exactly adverse to a book that leaves loose ends open, but I would have wanted a more solid ending as well. And yeah, I wish the cover wasn't so misleading. Then more people would read it. I was talking about this with my sister earlier, and she said she wouldn't think about reading it--based on the cover--if it wasn't for my review. But take Looking for Alaska and the awesome cover it got. This is as deep, but it's marketed as cheap summer read.

  4. I just finished this book last night, and share your views. I think Moskowitz is a talented writer, but she's not thorough. At least, not yet. She takes a single concept and sticks with it from one or two angles. I'd like her to take a few more concepts and come at them from multiple angles. I think she will, eventually. She's just not there yet.

    I got really tired of the Camus quotes. Actually, I got tired of the quotes in general. I wanted more story and less quoting. :) It would have helped to have quotes from other authors, though.

    I'll still read her other books. I think she's a diamond in the rough, and one of these days she'll be polished and stunning. :)

  5. Yup. I love discovering writers that have so much potential. It makes me
    anticipate their future works. Diamond in the rough is the perfect metaphor.

  6. I don't understand how the Harper Teen blacklisting thing is relevant since as you know Invincible Summer is a S&S book.