I'm tempted to spend this whole review on a close reading of the cover. Nails through toast? Are the nails a Christ-on-the-cross reference? But instead of raw host, people taking this communion are getting theirs heated? What I'm regarding as toast, but could also be orange slices, or something else--bologna?-- are possibly heart-shaped. What does that mean? Torborg Davern is the cover designer and the image is from Elizabeth Ansley. (btw What's with the publisher having copyright over the design, but the other artists own their material?) The nails look almost 3D. The cover is appealing anyway, and just the right amount mysterious.
As for the book's content...we meet Lexi on her way to de-gayification camp. Lexi is from a South Carolina town where everyone is Christian and no one is gay. Literally the only example she has of a live LGBTQ person is someone's grandnephew, who doesn't even live there. Lexi's father is dead, and her mother is dead inside. In fact, finding out about Lexi's sexuality is the only thing her mom has been impassioned about since Lexi's dad died.
Lexi, who's known she was "gay" (interestingly the words "lesbian" and "queer" don't appear in the book, and "LGBTQ" shows up only once, almost at the end) since she was nine, goes along with her mom's plan to send her to the pricey New Horizons reparative therapy camp mostly to preserve her relationship with her mother.
Of course Lexi's will to renounce same-sex attraction (SSA) is immediately threatened by a hot blonde from Connecticut. I found Lexi sympathetic and her story compelling, but I like her rebellious group mate Matthew's even more. You more or less know what's going to happen with Lexi from the start, but Matthew's story is surprising. Sadly, the head former-gay in charge's isn't.
I'm not a fan of casual ageism or ragging experienced nurses. That's Lexi's voice, not the author's, I suppose, but I still think it's crappy. My stepmother, at 69, is the best school nurse in the universe, thank you very much. She's also a light sleeper, so this snide comment is also uncalled for--
That settles it--I'm going to meet her again. Luckily, sleepy, old Barbara is on dorm duty.
There are characters in the book seem like they are meant to Black--named Jasmine, or said to have braids, which seems like a nod to diversity in YA. The author's website has an aesthetic that conveys an "urban" vibe, but there isn't anything explicit in the book about racial identity, or in Verdi's bio. She does endorse the We Need Diverse Books initiative. I wonder if she wrote The Summer specifically to contribute to the movement.