How to Survive a Summer
**Named One of Book Riot’s BEST QUEER BOOKS OF 2017**
“Packed with story and drama … If Tennessee Williams’s ‘Suddenly Last Summer’ could be transposed to the 21st-century South, where queer liberation co-exists alongside the stubborn remains of fire and brimstone, it might read something like this juicy, moving hot mess of a novel.” –Tim Murphy, The Washington Post
A searing debut novel centering around a gay-to-straight conversion camp in Mississippi and a man's reckoning with the trauma he faced there as a teen.
Camp Levi, nestled in the Mississippi countryside, is designed to “cure” young teenage boys of their budding homosexuality. Will Dillard, a midwestern graduate student, spent a summer at the camp as a teenager, and has since tried to erase the experience from his mind. But when a fellow student alerts him that a slasher movie based on the camp is being released, he is forced to confront his troubled history and possible culpability in the death of a fellow camper.
As past and present are woven together, Will recounts his “rehabilitation,” eventually returning to the abandoned campgrounds to solve the mysteries of that pivotal summer, and to reclaim his story from those who have stolen it. With a masterful confluence of sensibility and place, How to Survive a Summer is a searing, unforgettable novel that introduces an exciting new literary voice.
“Clear and moving, revealing White’s talent in evoking the complexities of the rural South.”
Will, a likeable, awkward academic plodding through life and his dissertation, was forced to attend an evangelical gay-conversion summer camp in Mississippi during his adolescence. When a fellow camper's memoir based on the experience is turned into a kitschy, possibly homophobic horror film, Will takes an emergency leave from his unfulfilling adult life to confront his past. While it's evident that something tragic happened at the camp, the specifics are not revealed until the end of the book. The result is writing that's largely diffuse and slow rather than suspenseful. By contrast, the strongest passages are those set during Will's early childhood with his preacher father, whose shock at seeing his son shimmy in the church choir creates a tension between them from which neither will recover. Captivating, too, is the fact that Will's aunt, the mystifying Mother Maude, ran the conversion camp with her deranged, abusive husband, but that her intentions stemmed from a more personal reason than just wanting the boys to avoid an "abomination." Though the story takes too long to get where it's going, these threads are clear and moving, revealing White's talent in evoking the complexities of the rural South.
Nick White really captures what it feels like to survive growing up gay and religious. Sometimes it was a little too real, but all of it was necessary for this greay story to move forward. This is amazing fiction on its own, and by far the best LGBT fiction I’ve read in a LONG time.