Having just finished high school, Winnie returns to Misty Haven to work as Co-Manager in Goldeen’s, her grandmother’s diner, before leaving for college in the fall. She has done this for twelve summers and looks forward to slipping back into the small town routine she enjoys, not so much to escape her life back home (where she has a caring and supportive family) but because she likes the work. In fact, she plans to pursue a degree in hospitality in the fall.
Coming along with her are her cousin Samantha and her younger brother Winston, who works as assistant cook. Also in town is her best friend/”ungirlfriend” Kara, with whom she has a committed queer (her word) but nonsexual relationship. Winnie, to most observers and even to herself, is a happy and cheerful person, doing all within her power to calm anxieties of others and defuse troublesome situations. She is overweight but does not allow people to put judgements on her because of it. To others, she is confident and in control of her life even if occasionally she has an excitable outburst for which she apologizes later.
Every summer the adjoining towns of Misty Haven and Merry Haven hold a summer festival, crowning a Summer King and Queen to preside over all the community events. Anyone can enter the competition; the two royals are chosen simply by having their names drawn by a community official from a bowl. This summer Winnie is startled when she is selected as queen (because the last thing she would ever do is enter the contest). She is even more startled when crushworthy Dallas is named king. This sets off a chain of events which leads Winnie to question just how “authentic” she really is: How can her professed gender be reconciled with the feelings she develops toward Dallas? How secure is she with her physical image if criticism from others causes her to lash out at them in anger? Why is she so fearful of upsetting her cousin, brother, best friend, grandmother that she usually goes along with their plans even though she’d rather not? Is she being honest with herself in thinking that community members don’t figure her race into their perception of her? Why is she so fearful of putting herself front and center that she almost has panic attacks when forced to do so? Winnie has lots to think about, and she is a changed person by the end of the book.
YA readers will find the story and the characters interesting. Purchasers may want to be aware of the offensive language, which mostly consists of the usual variations of hell, shit, asshole, f***, damn and so on, but which also includes excessive use of religious profanity. (In fact, in the many YA novels I’ve reviewed, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the name of Jesus Christ used so frequently and so casually. What’s with that?)