Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Invincible Summer


Invincible SummerAuthor: Hannah Moskowitz
Publication: April 19th 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Paperback, 269 pages
Buy: The Book Depository


Invincible Summer takes place over the course of several summers, during which the McGill family, not very put together in the first place, completely falls apart, only to reassemble itself entirely out of order, like a tile mosaic made out of pieces that don't quite fit, in colors that don't quite match.When you think about it, the same happens to most families sooner or later, and therein lies the true strength of this book.


Invincible Summer is a quiet little book, a great example of postmodern literature heavily influenced by Camus’ existential prose. I took my time reading it, which is highly unusual for me. The McGill family was so easy to slip into, but then I’d suddenly feel the need to remove myself from their drama, run from them like the oldest brother Noah does all the time, and read something fun that has very little to do with real life.

This drama I mentioned isn’t the loud, obvious drama of soap operas. It is the quiet torture of being in a large family in which all the roles are reversed. Chase struggles with being closely connected to his large family, and yet somehow feeling isolated at the same time. His parents keep having more children, even though the oldest, Noah, is already eighteen years old and the youngest, Gideon, is deaf and requires a lot of attention, and despite the fact that they can’t seem to find common ground about anything at all. The family is full of paradoxes: they are extremely loud in everyday communication, but when they have a problem or a disagreement, they refuse to communicate. Two youngest (healthy) children, Chase and Claudia, are the most responsible ones, taking the role of parents to Gideon far too often. Noah, the oldest, feels very affectionate towards his family, but he can’t stand to spend much real time around them, so he often disappears without a trace for hours or even days at a time.

Chase is going through his sexual awakening, suddenly aware of every girl around, especially his brother’s girlfriend Melinda. 12-year-old Claudia is drawing attention to herself by kissing waitresses in restaurants, Gideon is struggling with sign language and communicating in general, Noah is more restless than ever, and their parents are physically present, but completely absent in every way that counts.

Behind me, Mom and Dad are bitching softly to each other about something. I want to make Melinda watch.  I want to tell her that this is what comes of relationships that weren't meant to be.

From what I’ve read, most readers had issues with the overwhelming presence of Albert Camus in this book. He is everywhere, constantly quoted by characters and obsessed about, but he can also be found deep underneath the characters and the plot. His influence on Moskowitz herself and the structure of her novel is clearly discernible: if you think about it, the overly melancholic tone and strong sense of detachment are all reminiscent of Camus’ most famous work. Invincible Summer is very much an existentialist book. That part I didn’t mind, I’m a fan after all, but putting poor Albert in the mouths of teenage characters took away from their credibility and made me cringe several times. That is the only flaw I found, and one that is easily forgiven.

In Invincible Summer, Moskowitz did what she does best – she created characters that are impossible to forget and wrote a story that isn’t really a story at all – just a glimpse into a family’s existence: the disagreements, the tragedies, their love and connections. She’s not one for obvious drama, our Hannah, and yet, what could possibly be more terrifying than everyday life itself?
Reading this book, it is incredibly easy to forget that Hannah Moskowitz is ridiculously young. In her case, all that means is that she has many great books ahead of her. At 21 years of age, she is a force to be reckoned with.


23 comments:

  1. I have to say that the cover of this book doesn't scream existential philosophy at all. I think I'm going to give this one a whirl to see how it all plays out. Have you read "Nothing" by Jane Teller?It's also about existential philosophy.

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  2. This book sounds like one that won't be forgettable... I love it when authors take a serious topic to talk about, and make it heart wrenching. Lovely review!
    - Farah @ MajiBookshelf

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  3. I remember trying to get into this book last year, but I just couldn't I always said to myself that I would come back to it and I think your review is pushing me towards it. Its sounds like it full of complicated characters but also sounds like a lot of fun. I've always wanted to read something by Moskowitz too, I can't believe she's that young and written several powerful books! Wonderful review hun :)

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  4. I read another novel by Moskowitz and I simply loved it, but the mixed reviews have put me off this book. With your review though, this is going back on my TBR-Shelf. It simply seems too good to miss out and I love the manner in which Moskowitz manages to write such beautifully realistic characters. Yet another amazing review, Maja! :)

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  5. I didn't realise the author was just 21, especially with the number of well-praised books she's written. I still need to pick up something of hers and find out what is so special about her writing. Yet again, you have me curious. Lovely review, Maja! :)

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  6. Well who know a book with a silly little cover is an existential gem? It has been awhile since I read a book with an existential tone and this would definitely be interesting to check out . Thanks for the thoughtful insight! Miss you! I am sure you are super busy!

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  7. I read The Stranger in high school and here was my teenage reaction: []. Nothingness. Zero memories of reading it, what we talked about presumably for weeks in Lit class, just zilch. So I guess it's safe to say that I need to reread it to make an informed opinion on whether or not I like his seminal work. That might give me a better idea of whether I'd like this. While I love huge families in real life, I find it really hard to connect with them in books because it just feels like the author is trying to wrangle an entire herd of characters and unless they are extremely skilled, it will be awkward as anything. I only read the first 20 pages before and returned it to the library, not to be unread forever but just to be unread for now. I'll go back to it. Especially after this review.

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  8. You write such fabulous reviews, honey! I totally did not know that Invicible Summer was based off of Camus's work! This story definitely sounds really unique with each characters' role in the story. I'm so glad to hear that Hannah is able to make characters stand out and memorable. Lovely review! <3

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  9. Oh, Maja, WOW. AMAZING review.

    And seriously, this: "This drama I mentioned isn’t the loud, obvious drama of soap operas. It is the quiet torture of being in a large family in which all the roles are reversed."

    Oh wow. THe way you put this... poety ♥

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  10. Your comparison to Camus has me intrigued, definitely—there isn't a lot of YA fiction out there that you can make parallels to fabulous postmodern writing with. And, on the whole, I've heard amazing things about Hannah Moskowitz, though I haven't decided which book of hers I want to jump into first.

    Have you read any other novels by Moskowitz? If so, what would you recommend?

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  11. When I began reading your review, I thought it was an excerpt from the book.. or the blurb from goodreads... it was so polished!! But wow, that was the review itself!!
    The cover probably doesn't do justice to the book at. all.
    Fab review!! I hope I have the courage to pick up a realistic books in b/w all the paranormals I read!

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  12. The cover of this book is very simplistic, looks like a fun summer read. And yet what's hiding between the covers sounds like amazing writing from a very talented author who I'm surprised is only 21. Maybe a bit too realistic for my tastes, but your amazing review shows just how much you loved it.

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  13. I haven't read anything about this author yet, but what can I say? I think I really should. This kind of books, the ones that touch you like this because they are about what you face, they are the ones that stay forever. Perhaps not the best or the most fun to read, but definitely what stays.

    Thanks for the amazing review, Maja!

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  14. I wasn't initially planning to read this book since the reviews were mixed, and for whatever reason I didn't think it would be for me (and look where my presumptions get me!) but your review has certainly convinced me to rethink my decision. :) I love your review, Maja! It's so beautifully written and this line is incredible:

    "She’s not one for obvious drama, our Hannah, and yet, what could possibly be more terrifying than everyday life itself?"

    :)

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  15. I can't believe that Hannah is only 21! This sounds like a wonderful story and sometimes I don't mind if the story doesn't have much of a plot. Just observing a slice of another family's life feeds some of my voyeuristic tendencies. Wonderful review Maja, as usual. :)

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  16. i think this will be a nice read for me

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  17. I feel kind of bad that I've never read a Hannah Moskowitz book, even though everyone I know has nothing but awesome stuff. Especially for this one. I think I might have to put down everything and go out and buy this one. When I get some money, LOL. Great review!

    -Megan@Book Brats

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  18. Wow, this sounds like an incredible read with a lot of depth and intensity for such a young author! I might have to put this on my list for when I want to read something outside of my usual genres.

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  19. I've only read Moskowitz Gone, Gone, Gone which I really enjoyed so I'm really interested to check out her other books! I've heard of Invincible Summer quite a few times and it sounds like my cup of tea :) Definitely need to read it soon!

    Awesome review, Maja ♥ So glad you enjoyed it!

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  20. Oooh, I've been most attracted to Moskowitz's lgbt books, but, really, I want to read everything she's ever written, even though I haven't read any of her books yet. She's just one of the authors I am completely convinced I will love without any proof. I hope I get to read some of her books soon!

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  21. Okay! I am totally reading this book Maja. This review was thought provoking and made me feel things. I have to read this book. If a review can make me feel like this, I can only imagine what the actual book will make me feel like.

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  22. Wow, sounds like I am going to enjoy this one. I like reading story about family and stuff, also books with unforgettable characters are to be cherished. Incredible review Maja! x

    ficbookreviews.com

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  23. LOVELY review, Maja. Hannah Moskovitz is so amazing! I've only read Gone, Gone, Gone by her, but that alone was so good. I love what you said about this book not being a story but rather an insight into a family's real life. And WOW she's only 21? I had no clue!!! Fabulous review, Maja! <3

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