How To Survive a Summer, the debut novel by author Nick White is one of three books (two of which are translations) this year by gay male authors that deal heavily with homosexual themes. Besides the subject matter, I am not too sure if these books have anything more in common (I will be reading one of them next month), but they have a hard act to follow since this is an astonishingly self-assured debut that hopelessly and proudly straddles many different genres while maintaining its vice like grip on the reader, even through it’s quieter more reflective moments. What I liked most about this book is how much deeper it goes than just being a book about homosexuality. It has sex scenes in it, it has what might pass for love in it (I will elaborate), but it’s epicenter is its’ broken, almost cowardly narrator, a man-child nearing 30 who can’t reckon with his past and who he is, and most certainly can’t focus on the future. And the whole book is leading toward the possible moment when he can come to terms with who he is, what he went through and where he wants to be, and placing that story within the confines of what is at times a thriller makes for an endlessly compelling 338 page book. The man-child in question is Will Dillard, a grad student in film theory at an unnamed Midwestern college. One day, a friend of his, Bevy, invites him to a protest of an upcoming slasher film, which is based on book about a brutal gay conversion camp in Mississippi, which closed down after one of the campers was killed. What no one knows is that will was one of the five campers there during that fateful summer. After trying to see the movie with Zeus, a female to male transgender person and possible love interest, Will flees the college and heads back to where he grew up and eventually, the camp where his life took a harrowing turn. The novel doesn’t spend the bulk of its time in camp; instead, we get glimpses at Will’s childhood in the South, where kindness masks a social rigidity that is immovable and the wilderness provides cover for things otherworldly and dangerous. We learn about Will’s mother, who first noticed his homosexuality during a sleepless night following one of Will’s bad dreams. His dad, a local preacher, has a different way of finding out, which plays out in a raunchy scene involving a church candle. How he comes to be a camper I will not spoil, nor will I spoil what happens when he runs into two former campers on his trip who have become a couple and are hiding more than their share of secrets. This is a thrilling yet sad novel of a man who can’t get over himself and what he is, and the consequences that await him when he runs from that truth. It is a powerful original story from a writer to watch.