If I Told You So, Timothy Woodward
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: YA, LGBT (G)
Length: 304 pages
“Sean!” My mother’s voice cuts through the cocoon of morning warmth and sunshine. “You are not going to sleep all day!”
Ah… summer in your teens. Can’t think of a better way to spend my time. No responsibility, sleep in until late afternoon and just go out and live. However as you can see above parents don’t like this, none more so than in the case of 16 year Sean Jackson.
Sean lives in the sleepy lake town of Bell Cove, NH and just wants to spend his summer having fun; chatting with his girlfriend, Lisa, hanging around the lake and boating. Unfortunately this does not align with his mother’s wishes and she arranges for him to go stay with his father in Georgia where there is a job for him in a landscaping business. As a compromise Sean goes into town and finds a job. Due to leaving this until the last minute there isn’t much left in town. Sean runs into a bit of luck though when he is taken on at the Pink Cone run by the “Fabulous Renée” who is notorious in town as the flamboyant lesbian who makes ice cream.
After bidding farewell to Lisa, who’s off to be a counsellor at the Christian summer camp across the lake, Sean meets two very important people on his first day at the Pink Cone; Becky and Jay. Becky, from New York is staying in Bell Cove for the summer, and instantly attaches herself to Sean as his new best friend. Jay is the manager and Sean feels a connection to him that he can’t figure out just yet. With Becky’s support Sean throws himself into hanging out with Jay after work and starts to learn things about himself he could never have imagined.
I So Totally Told You So (A.K.A. The Highly Entertaining Factors)
Personally I love stories set during the summer, especially those of the coming of age or first love genres. There’s just something about the feel of summer that makes you want to go out and live your life. This is even better if there’s someone to enjoy it with.
Sean instantly hits in off in this book with Jay, who Sean realises he is attracted to after they share their fist kiss. Despite his initial shock that he is gay Sean pursues a relationship with his first love. Despite all the warnings about first loves given to him by Becky and his mother, Sean rushes headlong into his summer adventure.
If I Told You So shows how easily someone can fall for another in these care-free periods in life; the highs of discovery and the lows of despair as well. It is good that these aspects of summer romances are shown, especially Sean’s realisation that he was wrong in his initial impression of Jay. Reading about Sean’s happiness while discovering Jay and the new part of himself is wonderful with the reader getting to experience the joys of first love. However, by the end of summer, this his been transformed into regret when Sean realises that he lost something to Jay he can’t get back, which devastates him.
An equally important part of Sean’s tale is that of his coming out. With Becky’s support he eventually embraces this new side of himself and is not afraid to tell others. I really enjoyed how it was dealt with in this book and hope that it inspires others when coming out to their parents and friends, even partners.
My mother’s face crinkles. Her mouth moves up in a smile while her eyes squint together and tears shine in the deep creases.”
Before telling anyone Sean is very apprehensive but then he takes a step back in his mind, considers his history with these other people and knowing that they are genuine friends proceeds to tell them. Of course, it is not easy with everyone and Sean struggles to tell his father all summer. But in dealing with others he does show that being gay is not a heinous disfigurement, but instead something to be celebrated about one’s self.
Hate to Say I Told You So (A.K.A. What I Found Eh… Also a Song by The Hives)
I hate being a stickler for the small things, I really do.
If I Told You So has one particular small thing that is so glaringly obviously out of place it’s just ridiculous. It seems that everyone in Bell Cove has a cell phone, except Sean. What sort of 16 year old does not have a cell phone? Yes, I will admit that there are some in the world but it is usually due to ultra-strict parents or some religious belief against technology; Sean has neither of these and has both a landline phone and computer in his bedroom. The story is not set in any noticeably historic period and by all means Sean should have had, like almost every other 16 year old, a cell phone.
This just felt so off-putting that I had to mention it in this review especially since parts of the plot revolved around it. Such as when Sean is stuck on the lake with his father and can’t call Sean’s cell phone because as he states ‘I don’t have a cell phone.’ Beyond him not having one, it is never even talked about. There is no reason put forth in this book as to why Sean hasn’t got one. NONE.
My rant aside, If I Told You So is a book full of a great summer love story. With the soaring highs and catastrophic lows this tale lives up to my high standards of this genre of books. It should serve as inspiration for those who so desperately want to come out to either their parents or friends yet can’t seem to find the right words to do it with. The joys of relieving yourself of such a pressure is second to none and with that great new feeling you can start exploring for that new love of yours.
“I take his hand. We can take this slow. He laces his fingers between mine and squeezes. I squeeze back. We don’t say anything. We don’t need to. We just watch the sun set.”