How to Survive a Summer

Will Dillard, a Midwestern graduate student in film studies, is jolted from his quiet life upon learning about a new horror movie called Proud Flesh. His friend Bevy describes the slasher flick as "Friday the 13th meets Sleepaway Camp meets I don't know what." But for Will, the terror is far worse.

Proud Flesh, grotesquely twisted from a memoir written by one of the volunteer counselors, transports Will back to the fateful summer his father sent him to Camp Levi, a program whose aim was to cure homosexuality. Contrary to its objective, Camp Levi did no curing, instead leaving its participants with gaping wounds. As the movie begins to take on a cult-like popularity in gay clubs, Will is surrounded by reminders of the summer he'd rather forget--and the camp's victim who didn't survive. He realizes he can no longer run; he must confront his ghosts.

How to Survive a Summer, Nick White's debut, adeptly carries readers between the past, as Will recounts the weeks spent in the Mississippi woods, and 10 years later, as he comes to terms with the camp's devastating effects. White's language is soulful, creating a heavy atmosphere that mimics Will's burdens, weighing him down with internal conflict and overwhelming guilt.

White's theme of acceptance, especially self-acceptance, is at times painful and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, he embeds sparks of hope throughout, making How to Survive a Summer a heartbreaking novel with the potential to leave the reader's heart stronger along the break lines. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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