I'm going to open my rambling review with a warning. Grab some tissues, and possibly some comfort food, before you read this book. There is so much emotion packed into these pages that it is impossible not to feel something while you read. My personal emotions ran the gambit from complete adoration for these characters, to empathy, right on down to loathing. Invincible Summer is an emotional roller coaster ride of the truest kind. Hannah Moskowitz knows just how to draw her reader in and keep them there, before completely ripping their heart out of their chest. The best part? You're just okay with it when it happens. Yes, this book is that good.
Chase, Noah, Claudia, all the characters in this book are gorgeously and vividly written. They feel like old friends you might have been missing, because you know them so well in and out by the end of the book. Each one of them is fighting their own inner demons, but at the same time they are trying to learn how to help one another and just coexist. This is a story about families, and how they sometimes fall apart. It is a story about not being sure that growing up is really all that great. It is also a story about being so completely invested in someone that the mere thought of loosing them tears you apart. There are so many bittersweet relationships to observe that after a while I felt as though I just couldn't take it all in. Emotional overload would be a good description.
From the prodigal son who can do no wrong in his mother's eyes, despite his constant running away, to the lone girl in the family who feels as though she might just be a little overwhelmed by it all, there is something for everyone to relate to. This isn't really a happy story by any means, and there are times when I did feel uncomfortable with what I was reading. Sometimes the interactions between these characters are awkward, or terse, or even downright odd. However it is that fact that really proves that Hannah Moskowitz sees into the heart of her characters, and thus the hearts of her readers. No life is perfect, why should our characters be?
Am I rambling yet? I'm sure I am. There is just no way for me to legitimately explain to you how much I not only loved Invincible Summer, but also how deeply it touched me. Hannah Moskowitz has written something that is definitely not "your typical beach read" and thank goodness for that. This book is raw at times, and completely introspective at others. It is beautiful in the most tear-your-heart-out way possible. I will definitely be buying a copy of my very own and wearing the pages thin with rereading it over and over. Hands down, this is my favorite book of the year so far.
Within the opening line of Invincible Summer, is a hint of what will follow as the story of the McGill family unfolds. And who better to tell their story than Chase McGill. Chase, the self-appointed oldest brother (who is chronologically the second oldest), narrates this family saga over four summers as he struggles to keep it together and keep making sense of a dynamic that is sometimes impossible to make sense of…the modern family.
The thing that really touched me on a visceral level about this story was the relationship between Chase and his older brother, Noah. Noah is a wanderer, a bit of a lost soul perhaps. Chase so desires to keep Noah within the family fold that it’s sometimes the only thing on his mind. But when the brothers are together, that’s the real magic of this book. The two are so touching together, so achingly close and intimate. As someone who grew up with three brothers, this bond that Moskowitz has somehow perfectly captured resonated so loudly for me it became the whole focal point of the story. Whatever happens between these two boys, the love they feel for one another is so solid—so breathlessly there—that it leaves you aching within its pulse.
But as beautifully written as their relationship is, it is not entirely the focus of Invincible Summer. As the opening line alludes, this could in fact be considered a story of falling. We meet up with the McGills every summer for four years. The first summer, we meet the boys, their parents, their younger sister Claudia and deaf brother Gideon. And we also meet the Hathaway family that the McGills intimately share their summers with. There is Shannon, Bella, Melinda and their parents.
There is a reason I listed all the characters here. In the first few pages of Invincible Summer, as a reader, I thought I was going to have a hard time keeping track of this rather large cast. My fears were quickly alleviated, though, as I got deeper into the McGills’ saga. Each character was so well drawn there was never any question about who was who. Moskowitz did a wonderful job making each one unique and memorable.
There is another character in Invincible Summer worth mentioning. Albert Camus. He plays as big a role as some of the other characters. Moskowitz weaves beautiful Camus quotes throughout her story, as the boys become almost obsessed with his views and opinions of the world. After their introduction to him through Melinda, who has sex with both Chase and Noah, they are able to spout off Camus quotes for every event in their lives. This was done perfectly by Moskowitz, someone who clearly knows her Camus. It was such a delight to see the chosen quotes co-mingling with the story Moskowitz so expertly wove.
I’m not going to go too far into the story of Invincible Summer. I feel to give details would be to give away too much. I’ll just say that there is always something happening. In the first summer, we see Chase and his clan deal with a new addition, the tie breaker baby sister who throws off the balance of blond and brunet in the McGill household. In the second summer we see a rift in the family that has them fracturing in such a unique way it’s as tickling as it is tragic. The pivotal moments in Invincible Summer seem to occur in and around Chase’s yearly summer birthday, a fact not lost on our narrator. Each summer, there are issues for the family to deal with. And as the reader sees them arrive and erupt on the page, we are filled with nostalgia, angst, regret and pain. We laugh with the McGills and we cry with the McGills.
This book is one I will return to again and again. It’s an expertly woven tale of family dynamics, teen relationships and childhood summers. Every reader will connect to these memorable characters. Every reader will recall their own childhood summers as they dive deeper into this book… and how they felt both sickeningly vulnerable and powerfully invincible all at once as they struggled through those summers. And if they have siblings, they will ache with the familiarity of the sibling love that is so perfectly texturized in the bond between Noah and Chase. Moskowitz nailed the modern day family in this tale. I feel certain it will work its way into the hearts of all who read it.
This book exceeded my expectations by so much, I can't even quantify it. I seriously expected to enjoy it, as I enjoyed Break. But this one...it felt like it hit me on a visceral level. Such an emotional roller coaster--the good kind!
Over the course of four summers, Chase and his family undergo an evolution of change and he and his brothers and sisters discover the bonds that will forever bind them. One of the (many) reasons this book resonated with me so much is because I feel like I've lived aspects of this story. Like Chase, I experienced summers at the beach with my family and how it changed every year little by little until nothing was ever the same as it was in the "old days" when we were young. That's growing up, and, as Hannah Moskowitz shows us, it's sad, too.
Chase is such an easy character to get behind because Hannah doesn't just tell us what's happening, she tells us what Chase is thinking. And Chase is not perfect, not by a long shot, but his portrayal is so real, it's like I was a part of this story and ultimately a part of this family.
This is is a tragic story and while reading, I felt like what happened to these characters also happened to me and by the end I was crying along with them, feeling their losses as mine. It's that good.