(Original review posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/31326.html)Why I Read It:
In the YA sphere, Australian YA has been picking up a lot of steam. And somehow, despite not even being available in the US, this book in particular has been getting a lot of attention (despite being published two years earlier.) I know some awesome Australian bloggers were mailing out their copies to other bloggers and having them "tour" in a manner of speaking, which definitely got some word out. Either way, this book kept cropping up everywhere and getting very favourable reviews, so I was curious. While physical copies are not available in North America, you CAN buy an e-book version from Kobo, which I did and read while I was on vacation.
I don't understand copyright issues and all that jazz, but this book SERIOUSLY needs to be brought to North American shores. I think it was one of the best books I read in 2011.
The story follows Carly, an avid and passionate surfer. Having dropped out of university and kicked out of her home, she lives on her own and surfs by day and works as a cook by night. The reason Carly surfs so much isn't completely clear in the beginning (though you'll know what it is if you've read any reviews for the book) but it quickly becomes apparent that she's a rape victim, and it wasn't pretty. At all. The surfing is to help her forget, or at least a distraction.
I think one of the greatest strengths of this novel is in how subtle it is. Really, the narrative is pushed forward by Carly's daily activities which are essentially just surfing and working, surfing and working, etc. You'd think that would make for a slow and boring book but it really doesn't, because over the course of Carly's routine, she slowly starts to let people trickle into her life despite constantly trying to push people away. It's these interactions that slowly change Carly, and that's what makes this story so compelling -- watching Carly transform and start on the path of healing, even while she doesn't realize it's happening.
When reading reviews for this book I constantly came across reviewers praising the relationship between Carly and Ryan. Because of this, I thought this story was focused on them and their reluctant romantic relationship, but that's really not the case. Ryan is present from the beginning of the novel, but him and Carly don't actually get together until more than halfway through the novel. I really loved that because it allowed the reader to get to know Carly before she becomes embroiled in a relationship. But when their relationship does roll around? It's awesome. It's steamy, but heartfelt and touching at the same time. Also, I really felt for them, having to live far away from each other, having been in a long-distance relationship myself for the past two years.
I was really impressed with how well Eagar nailed the psychology of Carly's character. Writing about rape victims is something that's obviously not to be taken lightly, and it's apparent that Eagar did her research and wrote about it well. Reading about Carly's reaction right after IT happens was heartbreaking -- the shame, and how she felt she couldn't tell because it would justify all the things her father said about her -- which again, is an accurate psychological portrait. That's probably WHY it felt so heartbreaking; it wasn't contrived, and felt authentic, like it could (and it does) happen to other people.
And how can I not talk about the surfing? It's an integral part of the novel and I'm not sure if Eagar is a surfer herself, but regardless, she knows her stuff. There is surfing lingo abound here, and while I didn't understand half of it, I didn't care. When Carly's describing the waves I didn't understand half of that either, which made it hard to imagine scenes sometimes, but she talks about it with such passion and fervor that I felt myself being swept away anyway.Final Judgment:
This is a beautiful book and don't let the cover deceive you -- there's some very heavy stuff here that makes it hard to read about sometimes, but the pay off is really good. This is an amazing portrait of a young woman trying to get over something horrific, and watching Carly's healing process was touching and also very relieving -- by the end of the novel I felt like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders, very much how I imagine Carly might've felt. There's a lot of surfing and surf lingo, but don't let that deter you. Even when I didn't understand half of it, I still loved reading about it as it was something that was important to Carly, and because I cared so much about Carly, I cared about her love of surfing. The romantic relationship in this novel is also really well done and felt as really and authentic as Carly, as we watch her and Ryan try to get over their own demons. I highly recommend this, though be aware that it's probably for the older spectrum of YA.