Duane F. (Cape Girardeau, MO)
The starboard Sea
This book was full of suspense, insight and it was beautifully written. The author gave us real characters with situations that felt authentic and whose reactions were believable. Once I started it, I could not put it down. Teenagers often are exposed to their awaking sexual beings at exactly the same time as they are at their most vulnerable and are experimenting new adult feelings. Most often, they feel strongly and act irrationally, a dangerous combination. These teens must face the dangers of being able to act as adults without any concept of the consequences. Some fail, some succeed. I applaud Ms. Dermont for approaching such difficult topics with such a sensitive pen. She clearly sees the delema a young boy faces.
Jason has strong feelings for Cal, and yet he denies those feelings to point that Cal, having been rebuffed, commits suicide. Two lives destroyed, two families torn... He is then subject to expulsion from school and sent to another... where upon he meets perhaps, the love of his life, another trouble young girl who stands apart and bears to brunt of his fellow classmates humiliating taunts.
Both these young adults and their fellow students are on their own. Without any real rudders in their lives, they learn the hard way what choices we make as young adults will change the course of more than just themselves.
This book is written with such insight and tenderness with the unforgiving sea as an ultimate contrast to the indulgence of youth. I loved it!
Laura A. (Jupiter, Florida)
The Starboard Sea -
I thought about this book even when I wasn't reading it and couldn't wait to get back to it to read more. The story speaks of privilege and youth and how each of us must in the end answer for the mistakes we make. The main character in the book, Jason Prosper, struggles with the death of his best friend and his cruelty to his friend his death. As he moves on with his life and begins to form another relationship, he has no idea what the cruel behavior of other young men will do to change who he is and the path of his life. I highly recommend this book.
Bob S. (lawrenceburg, IN)
Voyage to the heart of light
I am a fan of first books--I find so many authors, including Jan Smiley and John Grisham, poured their authentic life into their first books and never surpassed them. Even if Amber Dermont publishes nothing else, "The Starboard Sea" is a gift for us all. She explores the heart's search for love, for forgiveness, for belonging with all the pain, joy, grief, and exaltation that journey involves. Jason steps through great love, devastating losses, and exalting triumphs searching fort hat rare treasure, his true self--something for which we all long and which so often eludes us. I know this young man in my heart and soul--I find myself here, and thank Amber for the light she gives.
Joyce K. (Conway, Arkansas)
The Starboard Sea
This story's setting begins by introducing us to the principal character Jason Prosper. He is entering into a new preparatory boarding school after being dismissed from another school despite his father's efforts to "bargain" for his retention. He has lost his best friend to suicide and is really struggling to deal with all the upheaval in his life.
The story deals with a number of themes of young adulthood including sexual conflict, fraility of relationships with both female and male friends, abuse of privilege and morality issues.
I enjoyed the book. I did not think it was a fast read but I thought it was a good read. I liked the way the story unfolded and was not bothered by it's occasional diversion.
My bookclub has read several first time authors. I think this book would be good for adult readers and young adults of mature age. Some of the themes would not be suitable for a young reader.
Arden A. (Lady Lake, FL)
The Offspring of the Privileged
This first novel, by Vassar graduate Amber Dermont, is a coming of age story for the advantaged, as opposed to the disadvantaged. No bootstraps to be pulled up among these kids. There are butlers to do that. It is a very well-written story, with flowing prose, and the characters are well-depicted, if somewhat hard to love. The novel takes place at a New England Boarding School, the school of last resort for obnoxious, over-indulged rich kids who have been kicked out of every other boarding school.
If this review sounds conflicted, it is. I enjoyed the book a lot, but have a hard time accepting the behavior of these kids, and accepting that adults running the schools can overlook or condone some of the acts, which border on evil. But then, it is fiction. There are any number of sub-plots here, and if you are a sailing enthusiast, there are fine descriptions of racing. Overall, The Starboard Sea is a good read with twists and turns and sexual identity issues. . .more than enough to keep you interested and guessing until the last page.
Roses with the thorns!
The artistry and intellect of Amber Dermont has me feeling a bit out of my league when it comes to reviewing her work. Through “The Starboard Sea”, I experienced a gorgeous landscape of reflections, insights, observation, emotion and passion, accessed through a thorny path of cruelty, narcissism, confusion, cynicism and compromise. I found myself bursting out in laughter on many occasions and there was sudden and unexpected sobbing in one spot. I found myself repeatedly underlining remarkable sentences and paragraphs.
More than a little of the book masterfully ushered me into the beauty of sailing; though I am not at all a mariner, the passion transferred very well. I found much of the coming-of-age sexuality of the young men in the story, understandably, unrecognizable. The ambivalence as to orientation explored, the private thoughts, the horsing around and jokes often seemed non-male and not real. It is a very ambitious thing for a woman to take on to be sure! Grief and loss are lovingly and artfully plumbed to their many-faceted depths. Being a widower, I found myself aching for the author as this level of understanding doesn’t come via any means other than mainline trauma. Interesting how very little there was to admire in all but a few living characters in the book (“The Lords of Discipline” comes to mind). The deceased Cal, anyone could have loved. I fell in love with Aidan. This is a book I will buy in hard cover and keep. I am confident that it is a novel that will yield more with another read… or two. Read the book and remember that I did warn you about the thorns!
Ellen S. (Mundelein, IL)
The Starboard Sea
I am drawn to the coming of age genre, especially those such as this; in settings completely distinct from my own. While reading The Starboard Sea, I was oft reminded of A Separate Peace (john Knowles) - the frailty of human nature, unspeakable moral dilemmas, and ultimately, redemption. Having no sailing experience, I was unfamiliar with the nautical terms; and yet, I was mesmerized by the nautical metaphors of celestial navigation and the sea of tranquility. The inclusion of the lyrics of a favorite song of my own youth, Kodachrome (p. 54) struck a huge chord with me. I look forward to the film adaptation, which will be sure to come.