The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau

I picked this up at ALA and what a treat it turned out to be! I read this on my vacation at the beach and it was very satisfying.  It is set in the 1970s in California and tells the story of one summer from 14 year old Jamie’s point of view.  It is a summer of experimenting with sex and boys, but also of drifting apart from friends and finding out that loyalties can be fickle.  Although she is only 14 and makes (what I think) are some not so great decisions (her boyfriend is 17), she seems, at times, to the one character with her head screwed on straight.  I think that although Jamie does a lot of things that seem way too old for her (namely, having sex), she is definitely 14-a young teen.  She wants to do grown up things, but she also longs for her parents to tell her everything is ok. In fact, I thought her relationship with her parents was the best part of the book.

Her mom and dad are sort of nudists, totally freewheeling hippie dippy parents.  Whenever they have parties all the adults are always naked (whereas their kids all wear suits), they smoke pot in front of their kids, they wouldn’t dream of making rules or curfews for their kids, and Jamie’s mom, Betty, is always trying to talk to her about her sexuality. What is so hilarious is that her mom is talking about vaginas and masturbation but in a totally mom dull way.  As you might guess, her parents are embarrassing to her.  And yet…she definitely loves them and its clear her parents adore her and really do want her to find her way in the world and be happy.The family dynamics in this story were both funny and heartwarming.

At times funny, at times surprisingly tragic, I thought this was a solid read.


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