Review: Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar


Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar
Synopsis from Goodreads

Jess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even.

The lesson: don’t mess with Unity girls.

The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold . . . and smart enough to keep up with Jess.

A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig – sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they’re at their most vulnerable?

It’s all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy’s stuff. Just your typical love story.

A searingly honest and achingly funny story about love and sex amid the hotbed of university colleges by the award-winning author of Raw Blue.

Review. 

Kirsty Eagar has a lot to answer for.

Yep, a lot to answer for. There she is posting her amazing photos of the Manly surf on Instagram, there she is writing glorious books about real characters and real relationships, there she is restoring my faith in YA fiction and there.she.is making it impossible not to resurrect my blog after reading her book.

My relationship with this book started a few weeks ago when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw that Maggie posted a picture of Summer Skin. If you don’t follow Maggie, you should because she posts the most amazing pictures of books and she’s all about the YA, so go follow.

And reader, I was intrigued. Not only because Kirsty is a fantastic person (I was *thiiiis* close to meeting her while I was in Australia so she could laugh at my summer skin. Think less glittersalt drying on bronzed skin and more, uh… peeling and red?)  But I was also intrigued because, guys, it’s a new Kirsty Eagar book and her books destroy me. Raw Blue? Gahh. A re-read is definitely in order. (It’s been FIVE YEARS since I read that book… holy shit.)

So, with a click and a three week wait (come on, Fishpondworld, pull up yer socks) and I had it in my hands and god, it was good.

Think Vera Dietz, think Frankie Landau-Banks, think Taylor Markham – all the great YA heroines- I think Jess Gordon is officially invited to hang out with the cool girls. And me. Please? Cheers.

From the get go, I knew that this book was going to be good. We had an older heroine, something that I love about Aussie YA. I feel sometimes “YA” is so rigid as a genre because there are so many limitations on characters (age being the major one *eye roll*) but the Aussies don’t care. It’s all about the writing, the story and the character. Whether the character is thirteen or twenty four, it doesn’t matter. And I respect that a lot.

As Summer Skin is about an older heroine, there is sex. Like, proper sex. Like not just fade to black. Or “he leaned in and he undid my trousers and I came instantly“. Not just a quick fumble. SEX.

And there’s also mention of masturbation. That’s right: say it with me… mas-tur-ba-tion.  In YA! Did you know teenagers masturbate? Well! They do! Who’da thunk it?

Also, extra points to Kirsty for using Alt-J lyrics to excellent effect. Left-hand free. Hur hur.

The story, which is pretty self-explanatory and I won’t bother going into it, is just as good as the atmosphere and it’s real and it’s messy and the story sometimes feels as clammy and muggy as the city. There’s always something brewing in the background, rumbling across the Brisbane skies and in these girl’s hearts. They’re wild and free in a way that only teenage girls can be. But not in a cookie-cutter-Cassie-from-Skins way.
I loved these girls and I loved their friendship. So pure and honest.

Slight spoilers. I’ll tell you when to look back.

My only slight problem with this book was Mitch. Now don’t get me wrong, I really like him as a character in a way that I will always love a love interest who is more than a love interest. Like, the author has actually given him some thought, not just a mop of curly hair and a wonky smile. And Kirsty Eagar can write a love interest: again, I refer you to Raw Blue because my heart, my heart. Mitch is a great character and the sort of boy you love against your best instincts. And that’s OK. He was real and teenage boys are misogynistic jerks sometimes but they’re also vulnerable and sweet and they swear and make comments that make you rage and text your girlfriends like ‘are you actually kidding me with this guy?’

I’m just not entirely sure I was overly convinced with how it ended but this has always been a Thing for me when a female character is so amazing and there’s A Boy and they end up in HEAville.

Even though it didn’t seem forced, I liked the push and pull and the, oh my god I hate that I’m going to type this, banter. It was electric. It stood out. It was nice and I like how both characters were developed through this back and forth. But then as soon as they started liking each other and *shudder* kissing, it kinda lost a bit of it’s edge. It was still enjoyable but … I love me some edge.

I feel like this says more about me than the book though, in fairness. I think I would have preferred it if Jess and Mitch had become allies and not lovers. Does that make any sense? Probably not.

OK YOU CAN LOOK NOW.

Ignoring that, which you all should, I loved this book. It’s fresh and feisty and hot as (Aussie speak, y’all). And imagine how ace you’re going to look when you read it in public because that cover is gloooorious.

Just read it, hey?

Fancy some summer listening? Summer Skin playlist here. 

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