A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that What I Thought Was True is a summer romance that features some sexual content: Gwen hooks up with several boys and has sex with Cass in her car, and with another boy after drinking at a party. Her father catches her hooking up with a boy on the sand. Her cousin and best friend also are having sex and are also very openly physically affectionate. Gwen's own parents got married as teens after they found out she was on the way. There's talk of birth control, including condoms and the Pill. Gwen eventually she learns to be honest and trusting with Cass as they begin to build a relationship on more than just attraction. She also decides she "would so much be with someone who cared what he was doing than someone who knew what he doing." Teens drink alcohol at parties on the beach and at their parents' homes. In addition, her grandfather smokes a pipe, and another teen smokes cigarettes, which her cousin also tries. There are a few uses of strong language, including "s--t," "f--king," and "a--."
What's the story?
Gwen knows she has a reputation after hooking up with several different boys, including rich, handsome Cass, whom she thinks used her to lose his virginity. When he takes a menial labor job on her tiny island community for the summer -- arranged by the father he disappointed by getting kicked out his prep school -- she can't help but see him everywhere. And while she worries that he is only interested in her as "a means to an end," it gets harder and harder to deny that there is a serious spark between them.
Is it any good?
WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE is pretty perfect summer reading. There's both funny banter between likable Gwen and Cass, and some sigh-worthy romantic moments, such as when they get stuck together in a boathouse during a thunderstorm. Some of the writing can be overly sentimental (Gwen's cousin collects skipping stones for his serious girlfriend, a reminder of their first kiss, which he got by asking her for one kiss for each time stone skipped on the water). But readers who like being swept away by poetic writing and sweet scenes will enjoy swooning through the pages here.
The author also pushes readers to think about class, and what kind of opportunities and expectations exist on each side of the causeway that separates Gwen's Seashell Island and Cass' Stony Bay. She also manages to avoid stereotyping rich kids as soul-less and poor kids as pure. Instead, characters on each side are realistically flawed and, for the most part, relatable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about summer beach books. What do you look for when you get to read non-assigned books?
Here, Gwen is working class and Cass is wealthy: How does their story compare with other romantic books and movies featuring characters from different economic classes?
Who do you think goes through the most change by the end of this book? Who do you think will get the happiest ending?
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