One Asinine Thing Before Breakfast and
a Review of Waves by Sharon Dogar

h1 June 28th, 2007 by jules

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:

Online Dating

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:

Online Dating

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.

12 comments to “One Asinine Thing Before Breakfast and
a Review of Waves by Sharon Dogar”

  1. I really, really want to see the master list of words for this. Cause that’s upsetting.

    I don’t care that I got an R; but I got an R for using words like Death and Dead.

    In other words, in a G world, no one ever dies.

    I wish I’d gotten an R for talking about, oh, Incest and Sex and Bigamy (my review of Wildly Romantic) etc. No, I got an R for reviewing Hattie Big Sky.

    I’ve also been having way to much fun putting in URLs for blogs/sites that I know think of themselves as G…and seeing the results being something quite different.

  2. I’d say the oafishness is glaringly obvious. Sheesh. Glad to see we’ve become so enlightened and progressive and humanitarian…

  3. Oh, man! This is crazy. I can’t believe it!

    Oh, wait. Yes, I can.

  4. My NC-17 is mostly from the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian.’ And oh, hell. And pain.

    Mustn’t think those, apparently.

    I do wonder if the rating list is the same as for music/movies, or if it’s just someone’s brain-dead ‘this is bad’ list. I’m going for the latter – just because…

  5. Holy carp! When I got my lowly PG rating I didn’t think to double-check it against individual posts because, well, yeah my posts are pretty vanilla. Surly in a good way, but vanilla. I didn’t even think to wonder what would draw the Big Red NC-17.

    Having worked (tangentially) in the film industry and knowing someone (also tangentially) who worked for the MPAA I’m going to have to say, yeah, the word triggers could in fact be identical to the movie rating board’s bad list. The fact that the MPAA rates film according to language AND content AND context makes it a little less heinous than a computer program checking for occurrence-per-post averaging.

    That the MPAA rating board has bent toward the family values fundies in deciding that the word ‘gay’ (and words suggesting violence) makes a topic less appropriate for younger viewers/readers is troubling; I’m saddened by these findings but I don’t find myself surprised.

  6. […] basis got an R rating and major potty mouth Heavy Metal Librarian got a G rating. The folks over at Seven Impossible things also got some interesting […]

  7. Yeah, the rating thingy picked up my uses of the word gay, too: Enola Gay (the song by OMD), the origami books by Gay Merrill Gross, and the use of the word gay to mean “merry” in “The Quangle-Wangle’s Hat.”

  8. Yeah, what gets me about the blog rater thingy is the same thing that gets me about book censors – it’s based merely on words and their number of appearances. No more paying attention to the value of content and context. While amusing, I can just see someone figuring out a way to use this as a means for blocking/allowing/evaluating certain blogs for their kids or students. Grrr.
    ~ G-rated

  9. My blog is rated “G,” which I found more than a little mortifying.

  10. Interesting word list for this ratings site. It missed today’s use of “crappy” but caught that a week ago I’d discussed a book that included a “gun.” Still clean enough for a G.

    Then over at Boston 1775 it discovered references to death, guns, and shooting. PG Well, it’s a blog about a war. But this week I’ve been discussing “an intemperate, licentious man, dangerous alike as the companion of either sex,” and that seems to be appropriate for the family audience.

  11. Not happy with the rating of your LGBT-oriented blog? Head over IQN and give your response – Does ‘Blog Rater’ carry built-in anti-gay bias?

  12. […] Even today’s squirrel sex poem doesn’t get me any more than this.  Though, as 7-Imp so astutely pointed out, it would apparently be another matter entirely if the squirrels were […]

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