Oceans Apart

         Book A                                       Book B

The two books in this review both tell stories about young girls and the sea and that is all they have in common. Book A: strong and interesting title, Book B: weird title that I suspect was some marketer’s idea, rather than the author’s. Book A: surfing girl, Book B: sailing girl.

Both books are written by men, but Book B’s author writes like a woman. Yes, I know this will come off as sexist, but I actually picked up the book without looking at the author’s name, however unconscionable that may be for a reviewer, and only realized half way through that the book was not written by a woman. I admire a man who can write like a woman. (Yes, I know . . .)

I teamed these two books up primarily because I hate writing negative reviews, so it won’t surprise you that, I loved one of these and hated the other. Can you guess which is which from the clues I have already given you?

Book B is the winner hands down. Hippie Chick is the story of a girl who, while sailing alone, is knocked overboard and struggles throughout the night to stay with her capsized and water logged boat as long as she can. When something bumps her beneath the water she is sure that a shark has found her, but fortune provides otherwise. A small family of manatee have briefly come close to her location and she must decide whether to continue to cling to her boat or try her fate with them. Hooking her fingers into a deep propeller scar on the largest of the sea-going mammals she becomes a fellow traveler on their journey to a hidden, warm water lagoon. Though not an outright rescue, this act of faith and courage  on her part eventually pays off.

The author, Joseph Monninger, does not romanticize this story nor spin a tale of noble manatees who consciously set out to befriend and save this young girl. The writing is deliciously sea-worthy, clean and sensuous. It pulled me along page to page.  When I put the book down at night its images swam in my thoughts and dreams, making me pick it up again in the morning for a few more pages before starting the day.

My only puzzlement is the title. Hippie Chick as a title brings to mind the free love days in the San Francisco of the 1970s, not the isolated struggle of a lost girl in a mosquito infested mangrove swamp in Florida. But if the marketers are right and the title draws people in and if they find a great read and learn something about the beleaguered manatee, then so be it. Fair warning though, this underage girl has a 20-something boyfriend. Though that alone could raise a parental eyebrow, the relationship itself does not carry much weight in the storyline in this girl-against-the-sea novel. Any self-respecting HomeSchooler can easily turn that aspect of the book into a lesson.

On the other hand I was completely taken in by the title of Book A: Waves of Grace, having been a long time follower of grace in its many forms. But Book A was a colossal disappointment I’m sorry to say. Fourteen year old Marguerite, sometimes referred to as Grace or Gracie without explanation, is an Outer Banks surfer girl with the requisite crumby home life, an alcoholic Mom and  Mom’s beastly brute of a live-in boy friend. The plot is thin, the dialogue unreal, the writing is abysmal and the outcome is unbelievably Pollyanna-ish. She wins the big surfing competition, her Mom falls through a plate glass coffee table inadvertently saving her daughter from rape, the attacker goes to jail and Marguerite doesn’t even have to testify. Did I already say, “Unreal?” I also found the characters in this book doing odd things with their faces and bodies, such as:

       “Rick was hastily turning his body into the coach in the living room.”
       “Marguerite shifted her lips to one cheek . . . .”

The aforementioned bodily contortions and teen characters saying things like “good times for sure” and “couldn’t get much better if you ask me” left me thinking the tide was out for good on this volume. You’ll be money ahead if you don’t add this one to your HomeSchool bookshelf.

So there you have it, don’t judge a book by its cover OR by its title. The winner’s are out there and you can find them.
Read on!
Amanda Lorenzo

NAARF is out to get you! Their weasel hencemen are sniffing out your location even as we speak.

Find out more when my new Runt Farm books make their debut. It won’t be long now.


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Filed under Around the Country, YA Novels

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