Every time I read Kirsty Eagar‘s work I’m hit by the same uneasy feeling : we’ve [I’ ve] used realistic too many times and its meaning sort of… watered-down, when really, authors who capture the inherent messiness of real relationships are so, so rare – Melina Marchetta and Kirsty Eagar are the only ones who pull it off for me, if I’m being honest. And yet, I know it’s a double-edged sword. I know – and I understand – that many of my friends would not love this novel because they want, they need to escape in a world of princes – and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of reading.
Upon closing this book today, something struck me : I’ve complained so often about the way New Adult romances rely on unnecessary and ridiculous drama, yet I’ve come to realize that the drama itself isn’t to blame. Summer Skin is full of drama. And that’s okay, because you know what? Life is messy and fucked-up and oh my god, aren’t we the most dramatic beings ever? Why do I feel differently, then? Why is this particular book so special? That’s simple, really. From start to finish, I never once raised my head to roll my eyes. And I do that a lot. Ask my friends. I’m this cynical kill-joy who will ruin the moment because wait, that’s ridiculous. Here? God. You could never have caught me judging the characters or their choices. It would have felt disrespectful because somehow, they’re real to me. And if I’m a bitch to fictional characters, I am not one in real life.
So very few authors manage to make me feel that way. And these authors are gold.
Finally, I’ve seen many reviews discussing whether or not Summer Skin was feminist, and a lot of good points were raised. No, seriously. Go read them. In my opinion though? Yeah. It’s feminist. 100%. PERSONALLY, I think we need to stop nitpicking each others and accept that we don’t need to be “perfect” to call ourselves a feminist. The gate-keeping? Not for me. We go out there, putting unatteinable expectations on ourselves, in an all-or-nothing fantasy that never fail to end crushed on the harshness of our patriarchal society. Summer Skin asks the good questions in my opinion, both on double standards and on the difficulties raised when our ideals are confronted to hard choices. Honestly, after having put women into stereotyped boxes for centuries, we don’t need books setting yet again how-to-be-a-good-woman rules. God, please. No. There is such a thing as internalized misogyny (I mean, gendered stereotypes have been DRILLED into our minds all our life for crying out loud) and of course bringing down rape culture is vital. I will never excuse any kind of slut-shaming or victim blaming. But let’s just not create another unattainable model is all.
I want to hug every woman out there and tell her that it’s okay to screw up. It’s okay to doubt. It’s okay. Really, it’s okay. Breathe. You’re amazing. Jess is amazing. I love her, I love her weaknesses that aren’t weaknesses at all but rather the fantastic layers that go hand in hand with being a living human being. As to Mitch… I was slow to like him, but in the end, I reallllllly do, and I get him. Isn’t that the most important of all?
I rooted for them so much and they made me so, so happy.