Corinne S. (Paoli, PA)
Th Starboard Sea
Bellingham Academy awaits Jason Kilian Prosper, a senior who experiences shame about his past at Kensington Prep, which gets him banished from the school, sexual confusion during a relationship with his best friend, Cal, and guilt about Cal’s suicide, hazing at a new boarding school, sailing competitions, love of Aidan, death, mystery, loyalty, betrayal, and the ability to forgive himself. Amber Dermont gives us a story that brings to mind The History Boys by Alan Bennett, or The Secret History by Donna Tartt. We are once again thrust into the life of a wealthy, exclusive, good ole boy private boarding school. Jason must navigate the dangerous waters of this new competition carefully even though he has a raw and damaged spirit. You will share his journey with the salty spray of sadness and depression and the warmth of sunny joy and love until Jason is able to find the right, true, starboard sea.
Rosanne W. (St Pete Beach, FL)
The Starboard Sea
Deeply flawed young people at a second rate prep school. The narrators "girlfriend" was just plain weird. Read the last few pages several times as the ending was so equivocal.
Andrienne G. (Azusa, CA)
Compelling coming-of-age tale set in the 80s
I don't know much about the 80s (I identify more with the 90s), so I can't comment on how accurate the way kids thought and felt. All I know is that I got this book yesterday and finished it yesterday. It was like Dead Poets Society without the idealism. I don't like boats or preppy kids, but somehow there was something intriguing about the story that made me want to keep reading. Of course, halfway through, I can figure out what the mystery was all about, but there were some startling surprises sprinkled throughout. There were also too many characters--more than I care to know about that made it a bit of a chore to read. Some characters weren't necessary and it only served to break the momentum of the book. The author was bold with some themes and she wrote about them in such a way that made me reread a few passages every now and then just to be sure I read it right. This book could be used in a book club for sure.
Malinda N. (Wheeling, WV)
The Starboard Sea
I absolutely loved this book. I read it from cover to cover and wished there was more. I longed to know what choices Jason made in the future as I found him to be a faulted yet loving character. Dermont writes beautifully and creates a poignant story about adolescence. At the same time she creates an aura of suspense that keeps the reader riveted. I have to admit, however, that part of my attraction to the story was based upon the fact that I graduated from an East Coast prep school in 1986...just a year before this story takes place. I was easily able to relate to the prep school codes as well as the fashion and music of that era. Others who have not lived through an adolescence in a prep school might not understand the sad truth and reality of what Dermont writes about.
Judy B. (Marysville, OH)
Sailing in deep literary seas
The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont is intensely powerful, full of suspense and well written. I think of a cross between Lord of the Flies and Ordinary People. Jason Prosper (a highly ironic name on many levels) arrives for his senior year at Bellingham, a “second chance” private boarding school, among other rich kids of his class. He is sent there because of troublesome behavior at his previous boarding school following the suicide of Cal, his roommate, best friend and sailing partner. The mystery of Cal’s death underlies Jason’s story of his time at Bellingham, a mayhem of hazing, elitism, cruelty, vandalism, assault, and even, possibly, murder. Among these dangerous shoals, he must come to terms with his own culpability in causing harm to those he cares about in spite of his loving and caring heart. The abiding lodestar in Jason’s life, and a pivotal metaphor in the book, is sailing. Descriptions of his sailing matches conveying a deep passion for the challenge of wind and waves are some of the most beautiful passages in the book. The title is a phrase from a game of Jason and Cal’s to call up words and phrases that originate from sailing (“…’true blue,’ ‘high and dry,’ ‘hand over fist,’ ‘know the ropes’….”). When they decide to make up their own phrase, Cal comes up with “the starboard sea,” meaning, he says, “the right sea, the true sea, or like finding the best path in life.” This is a gripping story of redemption by the power of the human spirit to find find its way through pain and confusion to the starboard sea. This book will stick with me for a long time, and I look forward to more books by Amber Dermont.