Kling, H.R. (2010). Sea. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
So, everybody on twitter (and by that I mean all of the authors and YA peeps) have been going CRAZY about Sea. So, I naturally had to move it from the third pile to the left of my "to read as soon as humanly possible" mountain of books to the top of the pile closest to my bed.
However it seems with all those random tweets that I kind-of-sort-of only half read, I had very skewed expectations about this book. For example. I assumed it was fantasy. I assumed that it involved blue people (???HOW???). I assumed it would be an immersing, super-amazing read that would parallel my love for The Hunger Games or Harry Potter.
Again, I don't quite know where all these expectations came from. But I had them.
And it's my experience that when I have freakishly high expectations, I'm doomed to be disappointed. That was kind of the case here. Not because this book isn't awesome. It is.
But because there were no blue people. There was no fantasy (but in my defense the opening line of the prologue is "I'm sitting alone on the other side of the world talking to a sea turtle that might be my mom...." That at least opened up the possibility of magical realism, right?).
Any-hoo, it took be until about page 150 to 100% figure out that my expectations were so skewed. There would be no blue people.
For any other skewed peeps out there, Sea is realistic fiction. REALISTIC!!!!!!!!!!
If you want blue people, watch Avatar.
Don't be as confused as I was.
This is your official expectations wake-up call. Don't hit snooze.
Now, on to the book...
Appetizer: For Sienna's fifteenth birthday, her father gets her a plane ticket to go to Indonesia to help him with tsunami relief for a group of orphans who are suffering from PTSD.
Sienna isn't sure that she'll be able to go though. Since her mother died in a plane crash into the sea three years previously, she's refused to fly, letting go of her activist dreams. She even refuses to surf with her best friend's brother, Spider, anymore.
Deciding to face her fears, Sienna goes with her father and his fellow therapists, including a woman, Vera, that Sienna fears may have a romantic interest in her dad. In Indonesia she'll gain insights into other ways of understanding the world, religions and maybe even come to terms with what happened to her mom. Of course, she'll also face a possible new romance that will give her insights into who she is and how she feels about the people she left at home.
As I was reading, I was impressed by how true to her age Sienna felt. She was prone to romantic infatuation, to being afraid of taking risks, to wanting her family restored, to needing her Dad.
I absolutely LOVE that this book is activist oriented (there really should be more books out there that normalize activism. Who's with me?). Sea is a window into Indonesian culture and intentionally avoids judgmental statements. Sienna sees how privileged she was being raised in her upper middle class white background with regular access to fresh fruit, education and a sturdy home. And through her eyes, the reader can gain the same insights.
The book opens up discussion about the 2004 tsunami and long-term effects on survivors, most notably Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This book is a wonderful summer read though. Since part of it involves a journey, romance and the rest takes place on the beach, it's perfect to read on the beach.
(BTW, why don't I live beside the sea? All I got is a smelly river that when the wind blows just wrong drifts a sewer-scent in my direction and that I would NEVER EVER swim in for fear the water would turn my skin green.)
"I'm sitting alone on the other side of the world talking to a sea turtle that might be my mom. The boy I love is with the girl he loves, and the girl he loves may not be me. If I was halfway to Crazy before, I'm fully arrived now" (p. 1).
"After Mom disappeared, Dad stopped working abroad completely to stay home with me. With us. He joined a private psychiatric practice here in El Angel Miguel, our little beach town south of San Francisco. I guessed he thought I was fine now...or at least sort of. I spent a lot of time pretending I was, anyway" (p. 5).
"We're traveling to Java. We'll be perfectly safe."
How could Dad promise we'd be safe? He said the same thing three years ago.
He came home and Mom didn't.
How could he ever make that promise again?" (p. 10)
"And then he was standing in front of me.
He looked about sixteen or seventeen. When his eyes met mine, they were so intense and dark. Bottom-of -the-ocean dark, the darkest eyes I'd ever seen. Up close his eye were even more piercing, like he was trying to peer right into my soul" (p. 73).
Tasty Rating: !!!!
But I want to go back to this idea of expectation for a moment.
When describing genre, I discuss with my students how genre sets up expectations about the content of a story--Whether or not it'd be acceptable for a unicorn or blue person to go skipping along the beach in a story. My genre expectations were part of my problem with being able to review this book.
But I also felt pressured to enjoy the book since everyone else in the world seemed to love it.
I wanted to know what some of you-all thought about encouraging the expectation of enjoyment with a book. I'm much more likely to open a book when someone says, "I think you're going to love this..." but at the same time, when someone says that to me, I'd better love that book.
Am I alone in this?