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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.
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.