Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Review of Sea
Author: Heidi R. Kling
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (June 10, 2010)
Reading Level: YA
Source: ARC – borrowed, not sent for review
Excerpt from cover of GoodReads:
Haunted by recurring nightmares since her mother’s disappearance over the Indian ocean three years before, fifteen-year old California girl Sienna Jones reluctantly travels with her psychiatrist father’s volunteer team to six-months post-tsunami Indonesia where she meets the scarred and soulful orphaned boy, Deni, who is more like Sea than anyone she has ever met.
She knows they can’t be together, so why can’t she stay away from him? And what about her old best friend-turned-suddenly-hot Spider who may or may not be waiting for her back home? And why won’t her dad tell her the truth about her mother’s plane crash? The farther she gets from home, the closer she comes to finding answers.
And Sea’s real adventure begins.
As part of The Story Siren’s (Kristi) 2010 Debut Challenge, I selected about 25 books from new authors that I interested in reading. Sea by Heidi R Kling was one of the books that piqued my interest. So when I had a chance to borrow a friend’s ARC of Sea, I grabbed the chance to read it.
In a moment of full disclosure, I want to start off by saying that my personal reading preference lie along the lines of fantasy/science fiction/paranormal stories. When I venture in to works of realistic fiction, especially on the YA level, I tend to have great reservations. I wondered as I cracked open Sea whether I would love it or be completely disappointed in it. Consequently, I think I tended to be a little harsher while I read it. I wondered if the characters would seem real and be relatable? Would the relationships between characters resonate with real life or seem completely fabricated? And my biggest issue - would the story show the growth and change of the main character as a result of what happened or would it all seem kind of meaningless?!
When I started reading Sea, I quickly found myself enjoying the short chapter style. I couldn't help commenting to myself - I bet my reluctant readers will really like this. The length of the chapters also seemed to move the story along nicely right from the beginning and kept me engaged with the characters. Throughout the book, I never felt like the story slowed down or became bogged down. Actually, I found myself needing to slow down so that I didn’t miss something and that I could really enjoy the story.
Since I often have an issue with the characters in realistic fiction, I was pleased by how much I really liked Sienna and all the other people in the book. I felt like the relationship she had with her dad was well portrayed. Sienna’s emotional reaction to her father’s interest in his female partner was also very believable especially in light of Sienna's grief over her mother's death. Additionally, the journey that Sienna makes personally and emotionally is mirrored through the physical journey of the plane ride to Indonesia and throughout her experiences there (Kling doesn't hold back with her bathroom descriptions - let's just say "ewwww") and then Sienna's return to California. It was very evident that Sienna's experiences had grown and changed her.
And for those of you who like a little romance, Kling has included that as well. (Ah, Deni! Ah, Spider!) From the description above (taken from GoodReads), the story is viewed as more of a romance. However, this was one area that I had slightly mixed feelings about. Even though I am all for a good romance (I can be a hopeless romantic), I actually wondered at times if exploring the experiences/interactions between Sienna and the younger orphan girls would have provided a different type of depth and complexity to the story. It wasn't that I didn't like the scenes between her and Deni, but I kept wanting to see more of where the story could have gone with the other part.
Kling added a wonderful quality by setting the story of Sea in Indonesia, with it's backdrop of poverty and loss experienced by the child victims of the Tsunami. Kling's removal of the story from the United States forges into areas not typically seen in the majority of YA realistic fiction. Just the twist in location of the book opens the story up to reaching a wider audience including tweens and teens who may not see themselves in the lives of rich teens in affluent suburban high schools.
Now that I just said that I loved and praised Sea for being set overseas, I am still curious about one thing? I am thrilled about the story, but then I have never lived or traveled in a place like Indonesia. It did occur to me that individuals who have lived within a developing country, especially a predominantly Muslim country might react differently. How would someone not from the U.S. respond to Sienna’s experiences in Indonesia?! I wonder if this is an unfortunate drawback to being an adult reader of YA stories?! I spend a lot of time trying to help children and families understand different cultures and perspectives so I may tend to over analyze stuff. Yet, I still felt at the end that my students may actually relate more to the book than they do with other stories.
Overall, this was a fun read and a great debut novel from Heidi R. Kling. I plan on picking up a few copies to give away to some teens that I know. I am glad that I discovered it through the 2010 Debut Novel Challenge and I do look forward to future books by Ms. Kling.
Until the next book,