Jason Prosper grew up in the elite world of Manhattan penthouses, Maine summer estates, old boy prep school. A smart, athletic teenager, Jason maintains a healthy, humorous disdain for the trappings of affluence, preferring to spend afternoons sailing with Cal, his best friend and roommate. When Cal commits suicide during their junior year at Kensington Prep, Jason, devastated, transfers to Bellingham Academy. There he meets Aidan, a fellow student with his own troubled past.
They embark on a tender, awkward, deeply emotional relationship, until a major hurricane hits the New England coast and Aidan’s body is found on the beach in its aftermath. School officials rule her death a suicide, and Jason is horrified to draw parallels between Aidan and Cal. He gradually realizes that Aidan’s death was neither suicide nor accident, and is determined to uncover the terrible secret that has been buried by the boys he considered his friends.
I have always loved reading coming-of-age stories as I find that they really show the journey that characters take, and show how progressively they change. Every coming-of-age story is different and The Starboard Sea definitely pushes the boundaries once more. This novel was incredibly unique, interesting, and really left the reader thinking. It is a novel that I enjoyed reading, though at times it took a lot out of me, but one that I would recommend easily. It is clear that Amber Dermont is a truly fantastic writer and I for one am very interested in keeping an eye out for other novels written by her.
In A Complex
The one thing that really brought life to this novel was the way it so easily portrayed the reality of life. It wasn’t a straight-forward story that was easily understood, it was layered, it had depth and it really made the reader stop and think about what was happening inside it. At every corner, it is impossible not to question what things meant, to understand what Jason is going through, and to put yourself in the shoes of these young teenagers who are just trying to exist. Amber Dermont has written a beautiful novel that twists and turns all over the place and brings to life so many different ways of dealing with death, anger, anxiety, and secrets. She has shown how the things we keep hidden deep inside of us have a way of bearing down our soul and that sometimes we just need to open up to others, to help make the burden less. This book shocked me to the core, made me tear up in peculiar places, and really opened up the problems with identity in all of its formats. After all, who are we really?
As soon as the story began, I instantly felt connected to Jason. I couldn’t even begin to describe why but I feel that his POV narrative just carried a lot of weight and made it impossible not to try to understand what he was going through. Jason has a lot of weight under him, he’s awkward but he tries not to be, he just simply wants to try and fit him. He’s very much introverted, and is often seen to be capturing the beauty of things without questioning what it means. He was a complex character that was full of depth and so brilliantly written that I was inspired by Amber Dermont. But really, every character in this novel was extremely well written, in a way that allows you to not just connect with them but to see them, to hate them, to love them, to see them as Jason does, but also to see them as individuals yourself. It was all captured incredibly well with Dermont’s writing and it just shows that she either has an amazing natural talent or has worked incredibly hard to get to where she is today. Whichever it is, it adds up to a wonderful book.
We Simply Try
While this book is deep, alluring, and sensitive, the writing style is one that takes a bit of getting used to. As mentioned previously, this isn’t a book that is easy-going but is layered and part of that layering comes in the form of the deep, almost poetic, writing style. Amber Dermont has made it so that the reader has to really think about what is not just being said, but what isn’t being said as well. It took me a while to get used to the writing style, especially with some of the dialogue feeling stilted and unnatural, but when I re-thought about it, I realised that, that is part of the charm of this book. It isn’t a simple easy-going story, it is full of authenticity and this style just makes everything seem more realistic; life isn’t simple or easy, so why should the voice of our main protagonist make us feel that his life is? In a way, Amber has set it up that within the very narrative, we are working out the larger questions of life just as Jason himself is. We are truly going on this coming-of-age story together.
It is instantly easy to see that this book will not be adored by everyone, in fact, I’m unfortunately certain enough to admit it may be hated by a lot, but that is because it isn’t the new Twilight that people can just skim through. It is an intellectual, powerful, charming book that deserves people to love it but that isn’t necessarily what the majority of the population want in a book – which is a very large shame. This book has made its way into my heart and mind and is one that I will probably return to from time and again. It is a unique novel that really pushes the boundaries of everything. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes books that get down into the nitty gritty, that lets them think, and that raises issues without skirting around the edges of life. This is a truly beautiful, magnificent book.
And I would like to finish this review with a quote from the author Justin Cronin; “The Starboard Sea is a touching, beautiful and deeply wise novel, a hymn to the bittersweet glories of youth. You will be enthralled.”
** I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. **