Giveaway & Interview With Jessica Verdi

Jessica Verdi Interview

I am absolutely THRILLED to invite Jessica Verdi on the blog today. I adore both of her books and fangirled like crazy when I met her at BookExpo America last year. Today she’s here to talk about her latest book, The Summer I Wasn’t Me.

Before we get started, here’s a bit about the book:

About the Book

The Summer I Wasn't MeThe Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire on April 1, 2014
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Religion
Pages: 352
Source: NetGalley
Book Details
Rating: ★★★★½

Lexi has a secret…

Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen-year-old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good.

You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way.

The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi—she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feelings is harder than she thinks. And when she falls heads over heels for one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what.

Read My Review

Interview With Jessica Verdi

Ashley: How much research did you do into “de-gaying camps”? Do you think The Summer I Wasn’t Me is an accurate representation of what these camps are like, with the role playing and enforcement of gender roles?

Jessica: The bulk of my research consisted of doing a lot of technical research on so-called “reparative therapy” (the techniques and methods they use, the argument for the work, etc.), reading first hand accounts from people who have been to camps like these, and watching several documentaries. Every single “exercise” you see in the book came from research—I didn’t make any of that stuff up, including the horrifying events that happen (no spoilers!) in Chapter 29. In fact, one of the hardest parts of my research was watching YouTube videos of that very type of thing. It was extremely difficult to watch kids going through something like that, but I knew I owed it to the accuracy of the story to get every detail, even ones as awful as that, correct. So yes, I do feel confident that New Horizons is representative of these camps and programs in real life.

Ashley: AHHHH Chapter 29!! Seriously, you guys. Your eyes will be like basketballs when you read that chapter O_O It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. Horrible, but YOU.CAN’T.LOOK.AWAY.

Ashley: When you wrote The Summer I Wasn’t Me, were you expecting/hoping readers would be frustrated and enraged with the camp? When I read the book I was stuck between loving the book and wanting to scream at it because the camp was so horrible! Is this the reaction you were hoping for?

Jessica: YES! 100%. A lot of people aren’t aware that thing sort of thing actually happens—let alone happens in our country every single day. It’s such a hush-hush world, and so it’s kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing. I wanted to bring these programs to light, and let people in on a little-seen world. And if readers are frustrated, enraged, and angry at what they’re reading, then I feel like my job is done. 🙂

Ashley: Well you certainly succeeded!

Ashley: If Lexi’s dad were still alive, how would he have reacted to his wife sending Lexi to “de-gaying” camp?

Jessica: He definitely would object to the whole idea. It’s interesting because if he were alive, I don’t know that the conversation about sending Lexi to New Horizons would have even happened. Lexi’s decision to go to the camp is sort of a direct result of her dad’s death—her family has been torn apart in so many ways, and she’s hoping becoming straight will help her hold onto the last family she has left.

Ashley: What inspired you to write The Summer I Wasn’t Me? Was there something specific?

Jessica: When I was toying with ideas for the topic of my second novel, this story really called out to me. I’ve always been fascinated by these so-called conversion camps, places where religious leaders claim they can turn gay kids straight. There is no doubt in my mind that they’re claiming to do the impossible, and that telling LGBTQ kids there’s something wrong with them is nothing short of abuse, but the root behind these camps actually, in a twisted way, stems from a good place. The parents who send their kids to these programs truly believe their children are on the wrong path in life and that they will go to hell if they don’t make a change. These parents are desperate to “save” their kids, in their own misguided way. This is something that has long intrigued me, and a world I knew I wanted to explore in the book.

But it all came together for me when, funnily enough, I was listening to Lady Gaga’s song “Hair.” The chorus of that song goes, “I just want to be myself and I want you to love me for who I am.” And I started thinking about all the kids who aren’t loved for who they are, and that made me so sad. And I knew I had to tell Lexi’s story.

Ashley: I’m VERY excited about your next book, What You Left Behind! What can you tell us about it? This will be your first book in the point of view of a male. How was that process for you?

Jessica: I’m so excited about What You Left Behind too. 🙂 It’s about a boy named Ryden who is wrestling with the guilt that if he hadn’t gotten his girlfriend pregnant, she wouldn’t have postponed her chemo treatments—and would still be alive. But as he struggles to be a good father and grieve his girlfriend’s death, he uncovers secrets that will make him reconsider every relationship in his life. I LOVED writing from the POV of a boy. He’s going through SO much in this story and I really loved getting inside his head. He’s smart and cool and talented, but he’s also a complete and total mess. It was so fun to explore his world—I kind of fell in love with him a little bit by the end of the story. 😉

Ashley: Don’t worry, Jessica, we won’t tell your husband about your new love affair. 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by Nose Graze! Keep rocking the world with your amazing stories.

About Jessica Verdi


Jessica Verdi is a young adult author who writes envelope-pushing stories about not-so-pretty real-life issues, but always with a positive spin.

Though she’s always been a bookworm (her childhood was basically defined by the philosophy that working your way through giant stacks of library books is far superior to playing outside), she remained convinced throughout high school and college that the stage—rather than the page—was meant to be her creative outlet. After nearly ten years pounding the NYC pavement auditioning for musicals (and sometimes actually getting cast in them), she got an idea for a novel. That novel was an adult magical realism story, and while it will never see the light of day—nope, don’t ask—it was the book that started her love affair with writing. Now she can’t imagine doing anything else.

Jess received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School and works as an editor at a romance novel publisher. She loves all animals, from the cute and cuddly to the large and freakish, has been a vegetarian for most of her life, is a little too obsessed with TV shows about vampires, and has an amazing group of writer friends who keep her sane.

Jess lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and dog.

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Enter to win a copy of one of Jessica Verdi’s books! The book will be distributed through either Amazon or The Book Depository, so you can pick your format (Kindle or physical copy). In order to enter, you must live in a country that Amazon or The Book Depository can deliver to.

The Summer I Wasn’t Me

The Summer I Wasn't Me
Goodreads My Review

My Life After Now

My Life After Now
Goodreads My Review

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. I felt so much rage reading this book. I think this genre (LGBT) is the one that gets me worked up the most. Especially if it’s about intolerance. I always get so angry and frustrated reading about that and these camps were the worst of all. Seriously. Jessica, if you’re reading this comment… You have a gift and you’re brilliant. I love you.

    1. I feel the same way! I was sooo angry reading the book. I wanted to rage and throw things! But I know that was the reaction she wanted, so she did her job well!

  2. I haven’t read any LGBT books unfortunately, but I recently made a list (during lgbt month) and the summer it wasn’t me is also on my list. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and there are also not as many lesbian books as there are gay books, I think! So O’m excited to read this!

    Nadia @ Nadia Reads recently posted: Star Ratings
    1. I hadn’t read many LGBT books either. I think this was maybe my second one. But it’s SO good!! Definitely a great book to get started with.

  3. These camps definitely do enrage me! I just started this one for LGBT Month and I’m already so sad really. It’s depressing to think that they actually exist. And the protagonist and the community make it seem like the idea is completely normal? D: I can’t wait to get into the book though. It’s super intriguing so far!

    Laura Plus Books recently posted: Guest Post: Butterflies and LGBT+? by Nora Olsen
    1. I know, it’s absolutely baffling to think these places really exist out there. It’s so sad. 🙁

  4. I loved Jessica’ s first book, My Life After Now. It was great to read a book with two dad’s as parents. Can’t wait to read The Summer I Wasn’t Me. Anything that tries to change someone from who they are is wrong.

    1. I loved that book too! The dads were THE BEST!! I loved how supportive they were. That was so refreshing, especially since soooo many books these days are all about absent/abusive parents.

    1. I know, it’s crazy! It’s like something from a hundred years ago; you can’t imagine they’re still out there!

  5. I really want to read this book! It sounds so depressing but also very interesting. I don’t know, I have heard of practices that try to de-gay people. But I have never heard of certain camps. They do exists and it just makes me sad in some way. Great post! Enjoyed reading the interview 🙂

    Sandra @ Sandra's World of Books recently posted: Looking for Alaska - John Green
    1. I hope you love the book!! You’re right: it’s very sad, but very interesting. It’s scary to think that there are real places like the one in the book.

  6. Yes it does get my hackles up so would like to read this book just to answer some of my questions!

    1. Exactly!! Just let people do whatever feels right for them. It’s not like they’re hurting anyone because they’re gay. Sheesh!

    1. I know!! I can’t even remember the last time I did an interview. But I ADORE Jessica Verdi so much! It’s always a pleasure to chat with her and have her on the blog. 🙂

    1. Yeah they’re super hush-hush. Also I wonder if maybe they exist more in other parts of the US.. like the southern states. I’m half making this up, but I have this idea in my head that they’re not quite as common on the east and west coast as they are in the central/southern areas of the country. And since I’m on the west coast, we like never hear/talk about them!

      But it’s soo scary to think that they’re actually out there O_O

    1. I hope you love it Jenna! You should totally check out My Life After Now as well. It’s one of my favourite books of all time!

  7. I can see why parents would want to send their children to these things. I mean, I’m a Christian-Catholic (and so is the rest of my family) and I remember a few years ago when my cousin mentioned how being gay is a sin (which I do not believe in, thankfully). I’m not saying these camps should be doing what they do. DEFINITELY NOT. It’s even a worse sin how they’re practically torturing these kids and ruining everything they believe in and love. So yeah, I pretty much despise these “de-gaying” camps.

    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings recently posted: Top Ten Super Talented Characters
  8. Yes they do! Being gay is not a condition that has to be cured, it’s who you are and you should embrace it and others should accept you and love you as you are. I haven’t read any books by Jessica Verdi yet, but I’ll have to check them out. They sound interesting and get really good reviews. Thank you for the giveaway 🙂

  9. I haven’t read any LGBT books unfortunately, … but i want to!!! 🙂 The books looks amazing and the covers are so perfect 🙂
    thanks for the giveaway

  10. I have read quite a few LGBT books and I love them! I think it’s appalling that these camps exist. Gay is not a disease! It’s not something that you “cure”. My favourite LGBT book would have to be Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

  11. The thought of anyone forcing someone to change by sending them to “camp” smacks of cult tactics to me. I know there is behavior modification that families try or are pressured to try and it is a disgrace to our society. You would think we could get past that.

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