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How to Survive a Summer

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  575 ratings  ·  125 reviews
A debut novel centering around a gay conversion camp in Mississippi, and a man's reckoning with the trauma he faced there as a teen.
Camp Levi nestled in the Mississippi countryside is designed to "cure" young teenage boys of their budding homosexuality. Will Dillard, a Midwestern graduate student, spent a summer at the camp as a teenager, and has since tried to erase
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Blue Rider Press
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Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  575 ratings  ·  125 reviews

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Larry H
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I'm stuck between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I'll round up.

"In the summer of 1999, when I was fifteen years old, I spent almost four weeks at a camp that was supposed to cure me of my homosexuality. Though I changed in many ways at Camp Levi, my desiresto the grief of everyone involved—did not."

Will Dillard is a graduate student in college working on his dissertation in film studies. He cannot seem to stay in a romantic relationship; in fact, even maintaining friendships is fairly difficult unless
May 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017
"You never know how bad you look until you see yourself in the eyes of other people."

Well, this was a disappointment. I was looking forward to a new voice in the LGBTQ genre, but this really wasn’t for me.
I struggled with this book, I really did. I don’t like leaving books unfinished, even more so if it is an ARC. How am I to judge a book when I haven’t read it? So I made myself pick this up again and get through with it, in the hope that it might get better. That there would be a turning point.
Jane Shambler
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
This was a hard read. It was slow and you felt like you were walking through sludge. It took me three months to finish this book. I refuse to give up on a book but I nearly did with this one.

The author does has promise as there are some paragraphs offering powerful messages. But, the majority of the book was hard going.

The book is about camps people sent their children too, to Pray Away The Gay. Are they serious? These Gay conversion camps DON'T WORK. You know that, I know that. Ok I admit its a
Bri | bribooks
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Release Date: 06.11.17

2.5 stars rounded up

In essence, this is a paint-by-numbers "hometown boy returns" literary release. It just isn't special in any way. Don't get me wrong; this author obviously has talent and some passages have power, but on the whole I was bored out of my skull. The premise of this one is very intriguing (hence my requesting an ARC from Netgalley), but the plot meanders and is just so sloooooow.

Things this book does right: it adequately shows the horror of gay conversion
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It pains me to say this, especially after reading an interview with the author in 'Rolling Stone', which corroborates his good intentions - but White's book is just NOT very good - and since I harbored notions of abandoning it several times, I can't really give it more than two stars. As with many (most?) debut efforts, the author tries to cram in too much plot and too many superfluous details that slow the story down to a painful slog - it could have easily jettisoned over a hundred pages, ...more
Mar 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book so much more than I did, but it was unfortunately juvenilely written and hard to slough through.

One character aptly assumes at one point that our narrator doesn't want to talk about his story because he may feel it's just another example of a gay boy growing up and getting out of a small town, moving from a rural area to a metropolitan area and not terribly worthy of sharing. This was the most poignant moment of the novel, because I think a lot of people do feel this
Erica Chilson
DNF @57% = automatic 3 stars

Writing style not for me. It was written as a stream of consciousness, but the narrative would go off on a side quest, get lost there for a bit, before journeying back to the original point being made. The only problem is how the reader forgot what the original point being shown was. As for the story itself, the writing style muddied it, burying it beneath the way it was written. Storyteller narrative, all told, not shown.

But that wasn't my biggest issue. Early on
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. The book had a bit of a meta feel to it, which really worked to its benefit I think, and made it a more compelling read for me. It was hard and sad, but it felt so genuine and raw that I could not help but feel for Will Dillard. We meet Will right when he finds out that very dark part of his adolescence has been made into a horror movie. Literally one of the worst times of his life was now a slasher flick, and it sends him into a tailspin. That secret and pain he has ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I saw Nick White in conversation with Garrard Conley at Book Culture on Columbus earlier this summer, which was terrific and hilarious. The two had so much to say about growing up in Southern American religious communities, the myriad ways some of us escape those childhoods, and long-lasting effects that stick with us in adulthood. I'm so fortunate I was able to be there. Oh, and also, they were hilarious and I had a lovely chat with them as they signed my books. As I said, fortunate.

Mike Oaks
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Will survived the summer. Not all of them did. Now it’s ten years later and he’s still trying to learn how to live.

Told non linearly it seems no matter what year you learn about, life just keeps kicking Will in the gut. I found myself angry most of the time. I kept thinking I would have behaved differently. Were shown the power to please your family can often override what is sensible. This story will transport you to the south and make you thankful these events didn’t happen to you. 4.75 for
Aj Sterkel
Jan 16, 2018 marked it as dnf
I don’t like judgmental people in real life or in fiction. The narrator got on my nerves way too much. I’m giving up.
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, queer-lit
As a queer person raised deeply Southern Baptist, the experiences described in How to Survive a Summer rang unfortunately true. I never attended the kind of conversion camp that Will does, but I was a fixture at church camp every summer, and I certainly internalized all kinds of nonsense about myself and other queer people because of that. When we first meet Will, he's still working through all of the shit from his past, brought back to the surface by the release of a horror film taking place at ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this for the most part. It mainly deals with Will's traumatic memories of his time at a gay conversion camp which was heartbreaking to read about. Again, in the beginning I found it hard to get into. There's the initial hook in the first chapter but then the proceeding 5-6 chapters were just really hard to get through for me. The book also deals in past and present (the story is being told in the present and Will remembers things from his past relating to that summer) and I loved the ...more
Amanda Mae
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is yet another case of a book finding me at just the right time. The character of Will reminds me of a few young men I've known, and his journey in this book intrigued me, baffled me, impressed me, and comforted me. There's hints of southern gothic, to give you a taste and keep you guessing. At times I wished I had a book just of those stories that Will's mother told him, and it got my writer mind churning with possibilities.

I could see how some readers might find the story too jumbled to
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-book
In this book there is a traumatic summer for a group of boys at a gay conversion camp. Later on that traumatic summer is dramatized and refashioned into a completely unrecognizable slasher movie "inspired by real events" and some of the characters who experienced those events are upset about that.

And main criticism of this book is that it needs to be edited down and made more cinematic. I don't need a slasher, but I need a hook to get into your story.

The pace is ponderous, which is its
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this novel to be an engaging and compelling read, despite the difficult subject matter. The writing drew me in, and I appreciated the use of the simultaneously mythic and mundane to expose the horrific realities of “pray away the gay” movements.
Emily Polson
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fic, lgbtq
"...I learned the past is not the past, a lump of time you can quarantine and forget about, but a reel of film in your brain that keeps on rolling, spooling and unspooling itself regardless of whether or not you are watching it."

Will Dillard's story takes place in two timelines: his childhood in the Mississippi Delta, leading up to his summer in a gay conversion camp, and his life as a graduate film student, learning about a movie based on that summer and deciding to confront his past with a
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: gay
Now that people with enough distance from those horrible formative years are able to write about the experience, we’re going to get a lot more novels about survivors of gay conversion therapy. How to Survive a Summer is about Will, a man who has hidden from himself since the titular summer of his teens, and how he pushes away everyone who has ever tried to know him. When one of the other conversion campers makes a horror film about the experience, Will is forced to confront his past.

This is the
Hot for Literature
Will Dilliard is a grad student writing his dissertation in film studies when he hears about a trendy new slasher film sweeping theatres across the nation. This film is based on a true story, his story, of Camp Levi, a camp designed to “cure” young boys of homosexuality. Growing up as a young teenage boy in rural Mississippi, Will discovered his sexuality while navigating the religious environment that surrounded him. His father, a devout Christian, suspicious and callous of Will’s identity, ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
4.0 Stars.

Another audiobook - seems like this is becoming a summer of listening rather than reading. First and foremost I have to say that I couldn't stand the narrator of this one. He didn't have an awful voice or a terrible reading style, so I can't really pinpoint what my exact problem is - it just didn't click with me.

Still, I listened to the whole book and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The premise was interesting from start to finish and I liked the way White organised the plot. I didn't think
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-read-2017
When Will Dillard, aka Rooster, was in his teens, his father sent him to Camp Levi, a conversion therapy camp in the Neck, an isolated area in central Mississippi. Therapy is a misnomer for what actually happens to the young men placed by their parents in the hands of Father Drake and Mother Maude, the camp’s leaders. After a tragedy occurs, the camp disbands and the campers go their separate ways.

Will, now a graduate student, believes himself to have moved on from that summer. But then a horror
Lotte Brewer
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I always feel weird posting books I listened to on Good Reads, it feels like cheating somehow, but I'm doing it anyway! "How to Survive a Summer" is a haunting, heart wrench tale about a young man who has never fully grappled with his various traumas concerning going to gay conversion therapy camp and an overall traumatic childhood. The story is great, but the reason I gave it three stars is because sometimes the story was slow and drawn out. The narrator of the audiobook however played into ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
It started out wonderful. A very creative plotline I was eager to read about. But as the story went on, the plot seemed to change in an incoherent way. Right when I think the story is going a certain way, something happens to completely lose the plot that has been set up, throwing the reader off balance. It is well written, but drags on quite a bit and eventually becomes rather boring once you realize the questions set up at the beginning aren't going to be returned to.
Camille Dent
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
As someone who grew up as a queer Mississippian, the people portrayed in this book were all too familiar to me. Nick White’s writing is compellingly and unfortunately accurate. The protagonist is frustrating much of the time, but I also understood a lot of his actions. He is not the gay caricature usually portrayed in fiction, so it was nice to see a different perspective that’s more similar to me.
Anthony Salazar
Jun 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
So much hype for a book gone so wrong. The sociopolitical pogressiveness is cool, but White's debut novel seems to lack a specific genre--and not in a good way.
Keith Chawgo
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nick White’s debut novel ‘How To Survive A Summer’ is a thought provoking and impressive piece of work that lifts itself from the pages and ingrains itself into the reader’s subconscious. Written in the first person, we hear the story of Will which progresses through passages of flashback. Working on many levels, blending genres from self discovery, horror, thriller and mystery whilst pushes this ahead of the game of most novels of this ilk.

The story starts in the present day as Will Dillard is
The story jumps back and forth all over the place and I found it jarring. I wanted to be invested in the main character's journey but too much time was spent in areas that never came full circle and then not enough time was spent on things like, how he was finally able to enter into a healthy relationship, or there would be things that got "resolved" in a sentence and I was like oh, so that's all. I don't know.

It had such a promising plot and subject matter, the fascinating POV of someone who
Michael Casner
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found this story about the horrors of gay conversion therapy camps more compelling than "Boy Erased.".
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
5 boys go to summer camp to supposedly be converted from homosexuality. 4 boys go home. Will had wanted the camp to be successful. He wanted to like girls and make his dad proud of him. That isn't what happened. Years later, a book is written about the camp. Then, a horror movie is made supposedly based on the book, but not really. This brings back all of Will's repressed feelings about what had gone on that summer. This book isn't about how to survive the camp itself, but how to survive the ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fav book of the summer so far! I've never read a book quite like this one and loved it. It was part memoir, part suspense, part impactful queer read that kept my attention. I loved that it was cerebral in places but also had a plot, where real things happened. When I saw Gerrard Conley (author of Boy Erased) talking about this book, I bought it immediately and would definitely recommend. Anyone with a familiarity with the Mississippi Delta--it's a must read.

Update: I read
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Nick White is an Assistant Professor of English at Ohio State University. A native of Mississippi, he earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His short stories have been published in a variety of places, including The Kenyon Review, Guernica,
“I write how sorry I am for not contacting her sooner, but I was afraid, a coward, and I am trying to be braver now. I try and try and try every day, all day long.” 0 likes
“The danger of becoming the person you are is you run the risk of hurting the people who love the person you were.” 0 likes
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