Book Review ~ The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau

Summary: The Summer of Naked Swim Parties ~ Fourteen-year-old Jamie will never forget the summer of 1976.  It’s the summer when she has her first boyfriend, cute surfer Flip Jenkins; it’s the summer when her two best friends get serious about sex, cigarettes, and tanning; it’s the summer when her parents throw, yes, naked swim parties, leaving Jamie flushed with embarrassment.  And it’s the summer that forever changes the way Jamie sees the things that matter: family, friendship, love and herself.

The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau is a time capsule from the summer of 1976, our country’s bicentennial year.  So many parts of this book are familiar yet alien to me.  Some a reflection of my life as a fourteen year old in 1989 but for the most part a fun read with subtle reminders of what being a teenager is all about. 

Daughter of semi-nudist, pot-smoking, party hosting, over-involved parents, Jamie finds being fourteen challenging.  She is the youngest of two daughters and though Rene and Jamie are no longer close, with different and conflicting views on life, they were before the hormonal teen years hit.  Rene goes off to “Outward Bound” summer camp and Jamie begins her very educational summer at home.   

Jamie’s summer schedule consists of waking, watching her topless mother bounce around the kitchen while making breakfast and spending her afternoons and evenings hanging out with her two best girlfriends.  The three of them soon begin having adventures with town boys and the dramas that come with lust/love, sex, drugs and drinking take over. 

Jamie learns about sex, already knows about pot, thanks to her parents but she’s not really interested.  She learns more about beer, discovers that just because they hang out with you it doesn’t mean that your friends will have your back forever.

One of my favorite parts in The Summer of Naked Swim Parties is when Jamie looses her virginity to her boyfriend Flip.  Though the location is a romantic, secluded beach spot with the boyfriend she knows every girl at school wants, things don’t always go as planned.  When does it really?

Blau’s dialogue flows smoothly and is clever, funny and quick.  My favorite character has to be Janie’s mother, Betty.  She is beautiful, fun loving, cooks, the glue that holds the family together and loves to make everyone happy as well as keep a high level of happiness in her life.  She concerns herself with Jamie’s newly discovered sexuality that is outed by a strange house guest.  She just wants her daughter to experience the pleasures she is entitled to, to Jamie’s horror.  Who really wants to talk about masturbation with their mom anyway?  Who’s mom actually tried to give tips on the subject? 

After a tragic accident plaques the house’s energy, Betty brings in an exorcist, the family visits a crazy family therapy session.  Then so-called friends come out of the woodwork when a (I believe) fictionalized Jane Fonda and her Senate-running husband are thrown a fund-raising party that becomes a bore-fest because there aren’t jiggling breasts and “wagging penises” diving into the pool or jumping on the trampoline in the back yard. 

Antagonists appear in many forms throughout The Summer of Naked Swim Parties.  Be it a penis, a mooching “Native American”, a disgruntled sister or a box of Nutter Butter cookies disguised as a friend, Jamie is constantly at battle with herself and her surroundings.  What fourteen year-old girl isn’t?  The Summer of Naked Swim Parties is a great book taking us back to our own summers when we were teenagers and had questions and worries about everything.  Some things never change though.  I’m still a worrier, still love to have fun and still love to make out.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

Be sure to check out Jessica Anya Blau’s guest post titled “Motherhood and Celebrity Penises” HERE.

The Summer of Naked Swim Parties book trailer: