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Be True to Me Kindle Edition
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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This story takes place during the summer of 1976. I was only 4 years old, but I fondly remember the bicentennial. Griffin peppered the story with just enough references to bring me back. I loved all the mentions of the music, the clothing, the hair, even the odd food we ate. It was a cool trip down memory lane.
This story revolved around three characters: Jean, Gil, and Fritz. Both Jean and Gil were trying to reinvent themselves, while Fritz stayed true to her self.
Gil had recently been accepted into his wealthy uncle's world. He was constantly battling between his desire to please his family and the desires of his heart. This resulted in Gil making some poor decisions, and both Jean and Fritz being hurt in the process.
Jean was a spoiled, entitled, rich girl, who grabbed this opportunity to shine by both hands. She had a chance to enjoy a summer at Sunken Haven without the shadow of her sister looming over her, but Jean also made a myriad of poor decisions, and often tried to justify or dismiss them.
I should have hated both Gil and Jean, but I didn't. Griffin did such a good job with these multidimensional characters, that I would get angry with them, but then later, I would empathize with them. Jean was oppressed being the "Other Custis Sister", and Gil was constantly being reminded that he could be written off if he dared any missteps. I cannot say that these circumstances excused their poor behavior, but it helped me understand their motivations.
Fritz, on the other hand, was fantastic. She loved spending her summers with her best friend in Sunken Haven. She was confident in who she was and her abilities. But as the summer wore on, her confidence began to unravel. The damage inflicted by Jean's and Gil's actions had consequences. Her rose colored glasses were removed, and she began to see the people of Sunken Harbor in a new light. Regardless, she chose to stay true to herself through it all. But again, poor decisions were made.
I found the story quite compelling, and fought sleep to keep reading. Having the story told from Fritz's and Jean's point of view worked really well. I got to hear each of their sides of the story, and see the Sunkie world from two very distinct viewpoints. It was also interesting to see Gil through their eyes, as he was perceived quite differently by each of them, and that added yet another dimension to this story. Griffin did an incredible job relating this tale of what happens when we lose ourselves, and unfortunately for our protagonists, they were a little too late figuring out what was really important.
Synopsis: In 1976, vacationers converge on the resort community of Sunken Harbor (on Fire Island, NY). A retreat for the wealthy, it is serviced by the less affluent along with the community's wealthy teens. Jean, the daughter of one of Fire Island's most upstanding families, is looking forward to a special Summer: her perfect older sister is going overseas and she can finally shine. Fritz is best friends with the daughter of one of the wealthy families and comes to Fire Island to work and enjoy the resort. Jean and Fritz's paths crossed the previous year - when Fritz took away the tennis trophy championship from Jean. And now, with the entry of the charming but mysterious Gil Burke, a different rivalry begins. One that will have tragic consequences for all.
Where this book shines is in the characters. Each is exquisitely drawn - products of their environment and how it shaped their outlook on life and situations. Protected, cosseted, wall flower Jean reveling in finally being able to come out from under her beautiful and accomplished sister's shadow. Grounded, fatalistic Fritz experiencing the Island resort as an outsider and somewhat reveling in it. Then there is Gil - also thrown into an unusual situation and with heavy stipulations due to being a 'poor relation' given a chance to live the good life. All three characters are main though only the two girls are given POVs. Even the side characters were impressively drawn.
In a story that stays true to real life, there are no idealistic heroes or situations. Gil's mistakes stem from idealism and impulsiveness, Jean's from lack of true life experiences, and Fritz's from frustration and stubborness. Author Griffin impressively translates those three perspectives into true expressions of the different aspects of being a teen. The book never hits a false note. Those worried about a love triangle need not - the choice is made clearly early on and each of the main characters has to deal with that situation in their different ways.
The story is brisk, moves nicely, and has a complete arc. The setting of 1976 makes sense but the author doesn't overdo the 'disco era' references and they do not overwhelm the story at any time.
No one is overidealized and tragic events are beautifully understated. The conclusion is logical but also surprising at the same time. It's a reminder that it's always the littlest of things that can snowball, especially through the minds of teens trying to find their way in the world. In all, highly recommended. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.