Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Starboard Sea

Aidan had compared Bellingham to the Island of Misfit Toys, a sanctuary for the unwanted. But the problem, as I saw it, was that putting this many defective kids together only created more trouble.

Jason Prosper had lived a charmed life until the year his best friend Cal, committed suicide. Jason blames himself, and his wealthy father, wishing to hide away the shame, sends him off to Bellingham Academy; a prep school on the New England coast. Whilst he soon makes friends, Jason struggles to come to terms with his loss, walking away from the very thing he and Cal loved so much; sailing. The night the hurricane hits, brings fresh tragedy and forces Jason to re-evaluate his friendships.

One of the things I didn’t enjoy about the book is the very thing that makes it effective as a story. I really disliked Jason’s so-called friends at Bellingham. Preppy, privileged, arrogant, whatever you want to call them, they are the epitome of spoilt rich kids. There's a lot of name dropping of artwork they own or people they are connected to. But the fact that Jason is lost at sea amongst them says something about his character. There are times when he appears to fit in; to comply and feel at home. Then there are these glimpses of the real Jason which break your heart.

The story of Jason and Cal is told in glimpses. There’s a tenderness underneath the harsh exterior of the superficial world. He did come across a bit passive throughout. He appears to let people get on with things and his feelings seemed dampened. The story is set in the 80s, with Black Friday making an impact on many of the families. The economic crash also marks a turning point for Jason, his loyalties, already being stretched, seem to start to change when he sees how the follies of the few can affect good people.

I normally love coastal settings but I found the rather functional descriptions of sailing a bit boring. There are words I recognise well enough, but without a real interest in competitive sailing, they didn’t conjure up scenes or emotions. There are a few moments, when Jason is looking back on times he sailed with Cal, which get across what sailing meant to them, but mostly, the detail got in the way. It’s probably of much more interest to sailing geeks.

It's also one of those books that mentions several other, well-known books or authors during the text. Presumably things the students read but it does act as a roadmap of sorts for what Amber Dermont likes and it's maybe not surprising that they are not amongst my shelves. It's a good book but too many things not to my tastes.

The Starboard Sea is published by Corsair, an imprint of Constable & Robinson, and is now available in hardback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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