Secrets are hard to keep in a small town like Pinetta, Florida, and a devastating hurricane further lays bare the private lives of Pinetta’s families in AS HOT AS IT WAS YOU OUGHT TO THANK ME (Back Bay Books), a jewel of a novel by Austinite NANCI KINCAID. Blossoming thirteen-year-old Berry Jackson serves as Kincaid’s eyes and ears (think Harper Lee’s Scout Finch) in this note-perfect tale about the summer of 1960, when the sweltering hamlet was turned upside down—literally by the storm and figuratively by the unexplained disappearances of Pastor Lyons; Berry’s father, Ford Jackson; and Rennie Miller, a stunningly pretty woman-child from a dirt-poor family. Throw in chain gangs, snakes, sex, and a hint of nostalgia, and the result is a novel that’s tough, tender, and mysterious all at once.