Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. 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.
In What I Thought Was True, Huntley Fitzpatrick writes a beautiful story of love, loss, and redefining yourself. Protagonist Gwen Castle worries that after sleeping with three different boys on the high school swim team, she’ll always have a reputation as one of the loose “island girls.” With the start of summer, she would like to forget everything, at least for the season, but Cassidy Sommers has apparently booked a gig as the island “yard boy” and is suddenly popping everywhere Gwen goes. Gwen will have to decide if it is ever possible to start over, with old relationships or with how she sees herself.
What I Thought Was True offers a heartbreakingly realistic view of what it can be like to find oneself with a reputation as easy in high school. Gwen certainly never thought of herself as a slut when she was sleeping with those boys, but everyone else seems to think she is, and now she is beginning to worry it might be true. The book follows Gwen as she struggles with coming to grips with how much everyone else is judging her versus how much she is judging herself. The story itself is never preachy and never really weighs in on one side or the other, instead emphasizing that it is possible to find new beginnings and to decide who you want to be in life.
Helping Gwen redefine herself is, of course, love interest Cass. The book somewhat overdoes the romance factor in the first several chapters, where Gwen seemingly cannot go even two pages without running into Cass again, but this does make sure the pace of the novel is going headlong from the start. Also, Gwen and Cass’s relationship is hardly smooth-sailing. Cass is one of the swim team boys Gwen had a hook-up with in the past, and she has no idea what that makes their relationship now. Cass, however, has a crystal-clear idea of what he would like their relationship to be, and many readers are sure to fall for Cass even as Gwen does.
In addition to romance, however, Fitzpatrick does family well. Readers who fell in love with the younger siblings in My Life Next Door will find much to adore in Gwen’s younger brother Emory. Emory has a mental disability the doctors cannot quite define, leaving Gwen to feel fiercely protective of him. Yet Emory has nothing if not a mind of his own. He is sometimes quirky and sometimes cranky, but he always seems able to find the good in the world and make others see it, too. The family is rounded out by Gwen’s parents (divorced), her cousin Nico, and her grandfather. The dynamics are vastly different from those in My Life Next Door, but demonstrate that Fitzpatrick does have the skills to write about lives on both sides of the bridge—the lives of the rich, and the lives of those who work for the rich.
What I Thought Was True is a thoughtful book. Not always optimistic and not always upbeat, it is not necessarily the fun beach read one might expect it to be from the cover. However, the book tackles tough high school subjects and the complexity of life and suggests that, just maybe, things can be okay after all. Recommended for fans of contemporary romance.