"It's like Gone Girl meets Endless Love. A terrific story filled with fascinating characters." – Ethan Cross, international best-selling author of The Shepherd
“My obsession with What it Was Like is identical to the one the story’s wry, intelligent, and completely unremorseful narrator has for the beautiful, sexually intoxicating and mesmerizing Rachel Prince, with whom he begins a romance that we know from the opening pages is ill-fated. Once I started reading, I had to finish the book as fast as I could. Reading What It Was Like made me experience all the joys – and dangers – of teenage lust with an immediacy that I haven’t felt since Splendor in the Grass.”
– Stan Chervin, Screenwriter, Academy Award nominee for Moneyball
“What It Was Like is a story about all kinds of love – the obsessive first love of two unforgettable teenagers as well as the layers of love that can lie in tortuous wait between parents and children, a love as deep and hidden as an ominous quarry. If indeed you’ve ever wondered what kind of parents J.D. Salinger and Patricia Highsmith would have made if they had gotten together, then look no further than Peter Seth, their literary progeny.”
– Kevin Sessums, author, Mississippi Sissy and editor in chief, FourTwoNine magazine
“I was the world’s rudest houseguest the weekend I brought along What It Was Like. From the opening chapter, I could not look away until I had read through to the stunning (and heartbreaking!) final pages. Peter Seth has done a wickedly skillful job of storytelling.”
– Kate Klimo, Author of The Dragon Keepers and The Dog Diaries
“Not like anything else I have read, this stark and frightening tale will stay with me for some time to come.”
– Cayacosta 72
“Reading What It Was Like made me experience all the joys – and dangers – of teenage lust with an immediacy that I haven’t felt since Splendor in the Grass." - Stan Chervin, Screenwriter, Academy Award nominee for Moneyball
“Just when you think you know where the story is headed it changes directions. It’s a roller coaster ride to the very last page.”
– Book Bug
“Passionate, stark, haunted fiction that nails it on the head about young adult romance gone awry.”
– Crystal Book Reviews
“This is an outstanding book! BRAVO! What a story!”
– Laurie Carlson
“It’s really a very simple story. What happened was this: I met this girl and did a very stupid thing. I fell in love. Hard. I know that to some people that makes me an idiot and a loser. What can I say? They’re right. I did some extremely foolish things; I’m the first to say it. And they’ve left me in jail and alone.”
So begins one of the most compelling, emotionally charged, and affecting novels you are likely to read this year.
It is the summer of 1968 and a young man takes a job at a camp in upstate New York before starting his first semester at Columbia University. There, he meets Rachel Price, a fellow counselor who is as beautiful as she is haunted. Their romance will burn with a passion neither of them has ever known before…a passion with the power to destroy.
In the tradition of Endless Love and Gone Girl, What It Was Like is an intimate, raw, and revealing journey through the landscape of all-consuming love. It announces the debut of a remarkable storyteller.
“A great beginning of a career for Peter Seth.” - Literarily Illumined
Peter Seth is a writer living in Los Angeles. He has written for television shows produced by Gary David Goldberg (“Brooklyn Bridge”) and Glenn Gordon Caron (“Showroom”). He wrote, produced, and directed the award-winning short film Lunch with Louie, which appeared in more than thirty-five film festivals around the world. He was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. What It Was Like is his first novel.
“I was the world’s rudest houseguest the weekend I brought along What It Was Like.” - Kate Klimo, Author of The Dragon Keepers and The Dog Diaries
From What It Was Like:
My excellent new lawyer told me to write everything down exactly as it happened, so that’s what I’m going to do. I didn’t testify at my trial and that didn’t work out so well, to put it mildly, so I’m going to write down everything that I wanted to say – and should have said – on the witness stand. I know people think that they know what happened, but I’m here to tell you that “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” has not been heard...until now.
All kinds of stories floated around for months, before, during, and after the trial, all kinds of lies. The whole Romeo-and-Juliet-Leopold-and-Loeb-Bonnie-and-Clyde thing that all the newspapers and TV stations made such a big deal over: most of it lies. On the one hand, I really don’t care what other people say about me. So many people hate me now who don’t even know me that it’s already completely absurd. (I’m not saying that I’m the nicest person in the world; I am far from that. But I’m no monster.) On the other hand, deliberate fabrications and distortions have hurt my family. They’ve been through enough; they don’t need any more pain. My life is already ruined; let’s just leave them alone.
I’m going to try to tell things in the order that they happened, but I can’t guarantee anything. Sometimes I’ll have to move around in time. My intention is to be clear and to tell the full story, as it relates to the Incident. I’m going to try to leave out anything extraneous. Everything that I say here goes to what I’ve learned to call “state of mind at the time.”
OK, I’m going to try to make this fast. It’s really a very simple story. What happened was this: I met this girl and did a very stupid thing. I fell in love. Hard. I know that to some people that makes me an idiot and a loser. What can I say? They’re right. I did some extremely foolish things; I’m the first to say it. And they’ve left me in jail and alone. What can I do? These things really happened.
It began with a pure and deep passion, and ended in obsession and violence. In heartbreak and shame and the personal destruction of many lives. But it wasn’t like the James Dean movie or the epic rock-and-roll song that the newspapers made it out to be. (Some jerk did write a song about it.) It was simple, at least at the beginning, and personal and real. Let me say right now that I deeply regret my part in everything bad that happened. How what started so innocently became so ... un-innocent . . . how things became twisted – even now, after so much time has passed, my mind can’t quite grasp all the events; even over time. Time: which is what I’m doing now. We’ll see what happens. My new lawyer tells me that I have reason to hope. Why am I suspicious of “hope?” All I know is that it’s breaking my mother’s heart for me to be in here. I can stand it; I don’t know if she can.
Also, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be in my own cell, “for my own protection,” so I’ll try to finish this up fast. I know people have only so much patience with teenage angst, myself included. So my first rule is: No Whining. The last thing anyone wants to hear is some loser whining about how life and love all went wrong for him.
While I’m thinking about it, let me establish some other ground rules. As far as my parents, I’m not going to go into too much detail about them. It’s not their story. They deserve their privacy after what they’ve gone through. It’s one thing to go through some kind of difficulty yourself; it’s quite another to have to stand by and watch someone you presumably love have to endure it. I shouldn’t say “presumably.” They do love me. That parental love; it’s crazy. Crazy primal. Because, if you look at the people in this world, many of them couldn’t possibly be loved by anybody but a parent. But I guess all kinds of people are loved. Serial killers on death row get marriage proposals all the time.
Also, I’m not going to use any curse words (though, God knows, my inner monologue is pretty much one continuous, indiscriminate stream of profanity). So once I start, I might never stop. So, No Swearing. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t want to get bogged down in too much nastiness or put people off unnecessarily. There’s plenty there already to put people off. Also, No Religion, No Politics, and as little as possible about The War.
I’m almost afraid to begin this. I don’t know why. Nothing can happen to me that’s any worse than what’s already occurred, so why not just go ahead and say it all? Everything: just as it happened. It is deeply embarrassing and shameful that I have to do this at all. To be a justifier, a self-defender, an alibier: just another “innocent” skeeve in prison, looking for a way out. But circumstances have forced me to do this. I didn’t think I’d have to take a last stand, this young. But let’s face it: adults really have no respect for the thoughts and feelings of teenagers, so I pretty much didn’t stand a chance from the get-go. I should be out living my life, not rehashing a few episodes from several months ago that happened to lead to some unfortunate consequences. Already I sound defensive, and I don’t want to be. “Unfortunate consequences??”
It’s noisy, even in this protected wing. Lots of slamming doors, metal-on-metal. Yelling, and then more yelling to stop the yelling. It makes it hard to concentrate. I won’t lie and say that I’m not scared and lonely. I get visits occasionally and can make phone calls, but I know I’m in this alone. And I’m going to get through it, alone. Sure, my life is ruined, but maybe I can salvage something from this disaster. It’s a terrible thing to admit, that one’s life is ruined, especially because I’m still pretty young. But even if I ever get out of here, I’ll always be that kid from Long Island, the Ivy League Killer, the Kid Who dot dot dot. From all the newspaper and radio and TV coverage, everyone thinks that they know me. “Experts” were certain that I was “using” her; other “experts” were just as sure that she was “using” me. They were all fools who knew nothing about love and how it works. But, in a way, it doesn’t matter anymore – everyone now knows my name (which is precisely why I’m not going to use it anywhere in this testimony). So let me tell you right now, right up-front: no one knows me.
There’s this guard in my section who lets me write under the covers after lights-out. I think he has a son my age. He looks at me with that “what a jerk” expression that I sometimes get from my Dad. He knows that I shouldn’t be here. Everyone knows that I shouldn’t be here. So how did it happen? How did I get here?