There were a few good messages that I was able to glean from this book. (Will teenagers have the same takeaway? I don't know.) The first is that sometimes your plans don't always jive with what other people want for you, and you really have to figure out what you want for yourself. For example, one character, Nic, really REALLY wants to attend the Coast Guard Academy, but that means putting off his relationship with girlfriend Vickie for another eight years, and Vickie doesn't want to wait that long to get married and start a family on the island.
Gwen's little brother is special-needs, and with both parents working minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet, Gwen believes that her parents are counting on her to take care of her brother, even though Gwen hopes to one day be far away from the island. As Gwen says on page 393, "...what you've always had doesn't mean that's what you'll always get. That what you've always wanted isn't what you'll always want."
The second lesson is that most times, like 99.9% of times, sex complicates things. So maybe you shouldn't start your romantic relationship in that way. Or maybe immature teenagers just shouldn't be doing it! HEY-O!
Apparently, Gwen is quite the island harlot, although I had a lot of trouble figuring out the timeline of her past conquests because the flashbacks were not very helpful in placing things in order. There's a line in the book where Gwen's love interest (and former "just sex" partner) Cassidy says something about eventually having sex with Gwen (again) when he has more than just the one condom he's kept in his wallet since he was 16. (Side note, DON'T KEEP CONDOMS IN YOUR WALLET. Geesh, what are they teaching kids these days?????) And then Gwen wonders why he didn't use that condom back when she basically forced herself on him: "what exactly he's been waiting for".
Oh, gee, Gwen. I don't know. Maybe he was waiting for the right person and the right relationship and the right time within that solid relationship instead of just using it and giving it away?
(Ugh, my stream-of-consciousness writing is starting to remind me of Gwen in this book.)
I guess what I've also learned from reading this book is that I wish there were more YA novels about teenage girls who aren't always pretty (even when they're supposed to be outcasts) and where one of the main plots doesn't revolve around an angsty romantic relationship or obsessing over dumb boys, in general. Real teenage girls are about so much more.
Also, this book is basically Pretty in Pink and there's no sex in that movie (not sure about the underage drinking), so just watch that and enjoy!
What I Thought Was True is published by Dial and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.