Want to know a secret? I am someone else. Nobody knows the real me.
A realistic portrayal of college life, Summer Skin was a tough one for me to rate. I loved the heated banter in the beginning, but the storyline and character behavior took some unfortunate turns and I struggled with some of the structure / style. However, Eagar’s skill in creating both authentic characters and a very real college experience are extraordinary. For that (and this book’s addictive quality), I would give Summer Skin 2.5 rounded up to 3 stars.
This was a book where I *knew* every single character as a person in real life, and the college experience was so accurately depicted, it felt like I never graduated. The friendships were realistic and well portrayed; while Jess was close to these girls, they weren’t YA-typical Bestest Friends Forever close. And the emotional components of personal growth and college hookup culture were well done, without being preachy or disingenuous.
My primary issue is with Mitch’s character. I understand his grief. However, that does not justify or excuse the horribly disrespectful way he talks to and treats Jess for the majority of this book. A guy that manipulates situations and feelings, calls a girl a slut in the midst of hooking up with them, and decides to cease all contact with a girl he had at least somewhat of an “understanding” with for weeks without notice is not someone I would even want to support. Their banter was entertaining in the beginning, but the longer his condescension and disrespect lasted, the harder it was to root for their relationship (and hate-to-love tropes are my favorite!). Moreover, he never really improved until the last ten pages of the book. Sure there were snippets of decency here and there, but overall he was just an awful human being.
Structure and style wise, I struggled with a few aspects. Passage of time in this book was confusing. Time jumps between scenes were done without enough context, and I’m not even sure how much total time this book covered. I really struggled to understand details of this world as well (the various colleges, Unity vs. Knights, course programs, etc.). Perhaps because everything else was so relatable, I wanted to be able to easily connect this to my own college experiences, and the Australian setting didn’t quite match up to my American one.
Summer Skin was an incredibly realistic depiction of college life, from personal growth and friendships to hookups and relationships. Simply on the basis of technical skill and triggered emotions, this is a really good book. I just struggle with Mitch’s behavior for 95% of this story, to a degree where I really couldn’t root for the relationship that drives the plot of this book.