On A Summer Night by Gabriel D. Vidrine: 8/10 Stars

 

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Fourteen-year-old Casey is determined to have fun this summer going to camp with his best friend, Ella. His overprotective mother frets that attending this one instead of trans camp like he’s always done will cause problems, but Casey has his heart set on going stealth anyway.

His mom just might be right.

All Ella wants is love for her best friend, and she’s determined to set him up with someone, despite Casey’s protests that he just wants to have fun, not get involved in a summer romance. But things get complicated when camp bully Ryan focuses his energies on the two friends. At least Casey’s cute bunkmate, Gavin, appears interested in getting to know him better, making Casey rethink the whole romance thing.

Until he finds out Gavin and Ryan are good friends.

Summer camp turns into so much more when Casey has to decide if Gavin is worth pursuing, friend of a bully or not.

There’s just one more problem: Ryan knows Casey is transgender.

 

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Overall Rating: 8/10 stars

Matt’s Review: 4/5 Stars

For the first 75%, this was a simply gorgeous story.

This is a personal experience. There is a personal edge to this that’s missing from so many trans stories: Casey isn’t just a trans boy, he’s a boy. He’s a person. He fits into trans discourse in a particular way. Some things apply and some do not, sometimes he goes with the flow and the accepted norm and other times he thinks “this isn’t me, this isn’t an issue I care about, these words aren’t mine.” These are the unique little windows we need more of. This character doesn’t want to be trans, just a boy; that character embraces her activism and identifies as trans and as a girl. I adored the individuality here, the view of a very personal and individual experience.

I’m gushing. Back up.

This is a pretty standard summer camp romance YA. It’s Casey’s first camp and he’s got all the normal worries plus many of the ones that come with being a trans kid. He is realistic about it too, rather than an idealised book version. Sometimes we do have to out ourselves to undercut a bully. Sometimes we do have to hide, and sometimes we trade off our comfort for safety. Sometimes we do internalise that sense of being icky, sometimes we do get paranoid.

The bit where it started to slide away from me was the end, when his friends want him to forgive Gavin and go out with him. And I didn’t like that bit at all. It felt super manipulative and just…wrong. It didn’t feel like he was allowed to be angry, or do what he wanted and needed in that situation. He had to forgive Gavin, to get a happy ending with him even if Casey himself was reluctant and not really okay with that, and then come out to their respective parents.

So honestly? I pulled back hard at the ending. I really didn’t like the ending. But…the rest was just so good, and I was enjoying it so much…

You know what? What was normally a huge red flag got watered down by how much I liked all the stuff before. The book carried me through that part, and I could still clutch the character himself to my heart as this great, real, complex, sometimes stupid kid who was doing dumb kid stuff and being a well rounded human being as well as some frankly wonderful rep.

I am gonna ding a star for the ending. But it’s still a solid as all hell four stars!

Laura’s Review: 4/5 Stars

This is one of those books that, as s future teacher, I wish were translated into Spanish so I could have it in my hypothetical future classroom. It’s one of those books I’d love to hand to teenagers looking to see themselves in them. It’s just a really good YA book.
I’m going to start with something I usually don’t mention in my reviews. I loved the writing in this book. I’d never read anything by this author, but from now on I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of their words. It was one of those styles of writing that helps me *see* the book in my head as if it were a movie. Don’t get me wrong, I always see every book I read, but some are more intricate than others. This one was a full time Hollywood movie for me.
I really liked the characters too. They read like real teenagers, and I adored Casey and his enthusiasm for being simply a teenage boy at camp. But that certainly wasn’t all he was, he really had a depth of character that made me fall in love with him, and I really liked how he thought and talked about being trans, how he had pride. I could easily empathise with him and there were moments in the book when I would have liked to go in and give him a bear hug.
And then there’s the aroace rep. I appreciated this one a lot. Ella was Casey’s best friend and she’s figured out she’s aroace. She still wonders sometimes, she has doubts about the future, and I could understand that so much and so hard, I don’t think I can’t even explain it to you.
The thing that bugged me a bit, and beware of spoilers from now on, it’s that I would have liked if Ryan had faced any kind of punishment for outing Casey. Outing anyone is serious business, and though I loved how Casey faced it and decided to come out to everyone, Ryan went along practically free. And that did bug me.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this book, especially to teenagers that want to see themselves on the page. I’m pretty sure adults can enjoy it, too. (Hey, I’m almost 30 and here I am!)
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