Book review: Invincible Summer

I bought Hannah Moskowitz’s second novel, Invincible Summer, this afternoon after work, and then blazed through it tonight.

Invincible Summer is ostensibly a YA novel (published by Simon Pulse), but I’m convinced it ought to simply stand on its own as a novel. As in her debut novel, Break, a broken, sad, yet funny family dynamic is on display. But Moskowitz isn’t just retreading ground she’s already covered. Invincible Summer is simultaneously a stronger and weaker novel than Break.

Moskowitz’s spare prose is a huge strength in both books. She’s excellent at sketching a believable world quickly and letting the readers fill in the details with their own imaginations. That skill is on full display in both of her published novels. The author also successfully shows the dynamic of a disintigrating family dealing with devastating loss and change.

She also has a knack for ramping up conflict in dialogue. Maybe it says something about me, but I really enjoyed reading arguments between the main character, Chase, and his older brother, Noah.

The book’s problems can actually be traced back to a writer other than the author. There are large chunks of the novel where the teenage characters spout Albert Camus‘s words. Verbatim, as though they’d memorized it like some scripture in some Absurdist Sunday school class. The teen characters are much better — much more believable — when they’re cracking on their parents or each other.

I understand what Moskowitz was trying to do with the Camus stuff, but it’s a crutch that she used in place of story, and that’s unfortunate. The constant and continual quotations were overkill. They made the characters come off as pompous instead of sympathetic, and were just flat-out unnecessary. I tried reading the book with the Camus quotes, then went back and read the same passages without Camus. I found the story still made sense, and didn’t lose anything. So when I found the great chunks of italicized text, I cheerfully leaped past them and on to the story.

And it’s an excellent story. It’s raw, painful, sexual without being sexy, and explores loss of innocence (and life). Definitely worth a read, despite a few glaring weaknesses. Invincible Summer is on sale now, online and through bookstores everywhere.

Disclaimer: I didn’t receive any sort of swag for doing this book review. I paid for my own dang copy of the book, and I have no relationship with Hannah Moskowitz or her publisher, although I do follow Hannah on Twitter and find her both smart and endearingly goofy.

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