Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont

I happened to run across this book at the library of the college where I teach. I was drawn by the private high school, snobbish boys finding their way idea, and I loved the idea of a sailing theme drawing richness into what the book might be for me. I used to teach at a private all-girls' k-8 school in San Francisco, and I so grew from the experience of teaching in that school culture. The school was established more than a hundred years ago, and the cultural history continues to be so rich. To this day, I treasure going to the school's website and seeing who I might know and who might still be connected to it. I grew up in far different waters within my family; I know the only way I could have ever been a student at a school like the one I taught at was through a full scholarship. I remember when I was exploring colleges that my mother wanted me to try to attend the small, private, liberal arts college she attended. Believing the possibility impossible, I didn't even try. Teaching at Burke's offered me a beginning chance to understand a culture that I had never known. I had hoped to unpack this a little in this book, but I hadn't realized how boys might too be looking to understand how they fit and jibe with a culture.

A short synopsis of the book: Jason gets booted out of his first private high school and his rich father donates a ton of money to get him into a different one for Jason's senior year. Jason knows a few folks at this new school, but he seeks distance from them and the partially tragic/ partially heartbreaking past that trails him. He has no idea how the past will follow him. The story takes him through finding and losing friends, making friends by bullying others, and discovering how his heart leads him into truths and loss that he doesn't believe he knows how to carry. Sailing offers him an out while the ocean remains a calming resource that helps him find his way.

I really enjoyed this coming of age story. I appreciated the author's rhythms within the text, and I really liked the way she writes. She is not overly dramatic in her work, and she seems to encourage us to add in just what we need to in terms of emotional engagement. What I most appreciated was how she writes with this idea of a truth source not yet available to the main character, like it is just out of his reach if he will only get out of his own way. Sounds quite familiar to me at least.

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