Before I share a YA review today, can I just share something so asinine that it’s almost funny?
There is this “what’s my blog rated?” thingy (to be precise) going around. You can see it here. For kicks and grins, I entered our blog’s name earlier this week. We got a “PG” rating, because the word “gay” showed up five times (that would be in the Summer Blog Blast Tour interview with Brent Hartinger, who is openly gay). Then, for even more kicks and grins and ’cause I was rather appalled (seeing as how just inches from the Brent interview was the Holly Black interview, in which she gives the most potent, most delightfully trash-talkin’, she-could-teach-some-sailors-a-thing-or-two answer thus far to the Pivot curse-word question, yet that somehow wasn’t any naughtier than being gay clearly is), I entered the URL of just Brent’s interview and got this:
Yes, it’s an “NC-17” rating, because the word “gay” shows up twenty times (and, incidentally, the word “pooped” shows up once).
For yet even more kicks and grins, I entered the URL for Holly Black’s interview. Seriously, did you even see her response to the Pivot curse-word question? But, apparently, being gay is even more profane, because her interview just warrants this rating:
Yes, include the word “gay” — no matter if you’re talking about, I dunno, sweet, bubbly, patriotic, philanthropic, humanitarian angel bunnies who are little saint bunnies or nun bunnies and who happen to be gay — and you get slapped with the rating that is, for all intents and purposes, the new “X” rating.
I’m trying to think of some really clever way to point out how oafish that is or trying to think of some really profound, witty, and famous quote on stupidity, but I’ll let it speak for itself. Moving right along:
I simply had to read Waves by British author Sharon Dogar (Scholastic’s Chicken House imprint; April 2007; library copy — I’m featuring both covers there, just for fun) when I saw the Philip Pullman quote on the cover in the way of advertising the novel: “A remarkable novel . . . suffused by an atmosphere both sensuous and sinister.” Pullman could tell me that the phone book is infused with an atmosphere both sensuous and sinister, and I’d reconsider spending some time reading it (you know, those yellow pages are pretty hot).
It’s summer in England, and Hal and his family head out to their annual summer vacation spot in Brackinton Haven. But this year things are a bit weird, since Charley — Hal’s older sister, age fifteen — is comatose in the hospital, close to death and kept alive by machines, though her mind is still hoppin’ and we, as the reader, are privvy to her thoughts. The previous summer, her body was found washed up on the shore there at their holiday home. Despite their great sadness over Charley’s condition, the family travels to the coast anyway, hoping the trip will do them some good. Hal is bitter and angry at the disruption in their lives caused by this mystery, yet he misses his sister, too:
“Oh, Charley!” Mum cries out, and her voice sounds so sudden and new and true again — and full of pain. It’s like she’s leaving Charley forever. And that’s when I get it, I finally get it. I get that maybe Mum really does think that Charley will die without her visiting every day.
Maybe she will, I think. Maybe she should, is what I don’t think. I creep away, before Mum sees me, away from the smell of the flowers in the dead white room, like bleached bones. Away from that thing they still call Charley.
After the family gets settled a bit at the shore, Hal befriends and falls for freckly, red-haired Jackie, a nearby vacationer, whose older brother, Pete, had an intense relationship with Charley the previous summer and, Hal suspects, must know what happened on the fateful night she was found unconscious. Suddenly, Hal is determined to solve the mystery of what happened when he finds himself inexplicably able to hear his sister’s voice in his head and occasionally see through her eyes. Dogar provides flashbacks to the previous summer, in which Charley was falling deeply for Pete, juxtaposing these flashes into their relationship with the burgeoning one between Hal and Jackie. Indeed, the novel is told through their alternating voices (past and present — the book’s full-to-burstin’ with flashbacks and some rather necessarily grim foreshadowing). Dogar’s changing-of-gears between past and present is never clunky either. All flows as smoothly as the ocean waters.
With these flashbacks, the choppy titles of the often-very-short chapters (“Hal. Now.”; “Charley. Hospital. Now”; “Hal/Charley. Then.”), and the ability to get into Charley’s head, it’s all a bit spooky for a while. Dogar keeps the narrative forging ahead and our interest piqued with the suspense and the rather eerie atmosphere, all fueled by the Great Mystery of what the hell happened to Charley on that dark summer night one year ago. But, as The Publishers Weekly review put it, things start veering towards the melodramatic a bit too much (there are a lot of “Remember, Hal!” and “Help me, Hal!“s directed from Charley’s mind to his, and there were a few too many “Someone’s walking on my graves”s for my taste), especially in the end where the supernatural sibling telepathy peaks. But teens who love supernatural mysteries or, as the same Publishers Weekly review put it, “gothic romances” will really dig this, especially those readers who appreciate such swerving narratives (from present to past with a few future hints thrown in as well) and those readers who won’t complain about Dogar’s refusal to sugarcoat (thank goodness) — Charley doesn’t exactly suddenly walk out of the hospital in the end. It is no surprise at all to the reader (no, I’m not giving you a spoiler, anything you wouldn’t figure out after first starting the book) that she needs Hal’s mind-reading assistance to help her work her own way towards death, to come to some peaceful resolution to what happened that summer to put her in a coma. Not to mention, as School Library Journal’s review wrote, “Readers . . . will be intrigued by Dogar’s exploration of such questions as: Where exactly is a person when she no longer inhabits her earthly body? Can she communicate with those she has left behind?”
Bottom line: A compelling and contemplative read (oh, and yes, Pullman was right about the “sensuous,” what with all the book’s sand and water and waves and sunlight and making out) for fans of both mysteries and smart romances.