Associate Links: Amazon/IndieBound
- Why I picked it up: Won it in a contest, exciting blurb from Philip Pullman on the front
- Disclosure: Won my paperback copy in a book-blogger sponsored contest, no reimbursement from author or publisher
“Where is she? And what was she doing out on the waves that night?”Yes, the word "lyrical" is a book reviewer's cliche, but this book truly warrants the adjective. Everything about the prose was lyric and beautiful, ebbing and flowing like the waves and tides it described, leaving me quite literally breathless as I raced to keep up. Whatever criticisms I have, I have to give it that.
For Hal, now, this summer is different. Sure he’s spending it, as always, with his family at their cottage on the wild west coast of England. But this summer he meets Jackie, beautiful, impetuous Jackie. Lying with her on the beach while she sculpts mermaids from wet sand–it’s paradise. Or would be, if only he didn’t keep hearing the desperate pleas of his lost sister Charley in his head . . .
For Charley, then, last summer was different. Pete, the impossibly gorgeous surf god, wanted her, she couldn’t believe it! To lick the sand off his lips, to let the sun tan the outline of her hand over his heart–she’d do anything to be with him. Even if it meant sneaking out and leaving her tagalong brother Hal behind. Just for one night. How could she have known what would happen by dawn?
Set at a beach where growing up goes wrong, Waves is a coming-of-age mystery about first love and tragic loss. About a family drowning in sorrow, and the courageous son struggling against the tide to save them.
Honestly, though, perhaps that is my criticism. The breathless pace and mystery started to annoy me by the end, when the sickly saccharine sweet resolution left me with a bad taste in my mouth and the mystery unraveled in a most unsightly manner. It was build-up to nothing. Can you scream PET PEEVE? And the mixed perspectives of Hal and Charley only made it worse.
However, if you enjoy mystery, if you enjoy stream-of-consciousness POVs, if you enjoy grief stories, if you enjoy beach love stories that don't necessarily end happily, then this book might still be for you. The chemistry between Jackie and Hal, not to mention the love triangle between Pete, Charley, and Am, fairly crackled with electric realism, while the deep grief underscoring Hal's home life was raw and mostly believable. Sarz in particular was an interesting character. There were times when they transported me to the beach so completely I could practically feel the sun, saltwater, and sand on my skin.
Another interesting aspect was the discussion of life, *The Other Side*, and everywhere in between. What was it? Magical realism? Paranormal? Could you even get away with calling it fantasy? (I'm doing so in my label of this post.) Whatever it was, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't; I could never quite decide. It reminded me vividly of Toni Morrison's Beloved, which I just finished, with its discussions of spirits and revenge and also sometimes with its writing style. Obviously it wasn't quite as expertly written as Beloved, but they're still similar, in my opinion.
In the end, I think it's the kind of book you'd have to read to believe. It's not a difficult read, or a long one, and on virtue of the prose alone it's a good study for aspiring writers. But in the end, I'm not sure it would be worth much more than a quick borrow from the library.
The Final Verdict: Sweeping, vivid, with beautiful prose, but inconsistent and confusing at times. Three and a half out of five stars.