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Lauren C. (Los Angeles, CA)
Nice character study
I thought the author did a good job of getting inside the thoughts of her main character. I was particularly impressed that unlike most books about teens that either have them talk and act like adults or like children, this one seems to really have captured that age (17) of being close to a young adult but not quite there. The character alternates insightful thought and considerate actions with thoughtlessness and stupidity.
Duane F. (Cape Girardeau, MO)
The starboard Sea
This isn't a book where a lot happens, but I thought that it captured the atmosphere of a Massachusetts prep school and a kid from a dysfunctional family in New York. It kept me engaged.
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.
Jerry P. (Santa Rosa, CA)
The Rich are not Immune to Suffering
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!
Amber Dermont, as other graduates of the Iowa Writers Workshop, has written a captivating first novel. I frequently reread many sentences to better digest the story and its characters. She clearly portrayed Jason Prosper's intense emotional pain, guilt and loneliness and vividly described how his self-absorbed family was clueless to his emotional pain. I cringed when I read the section where Jason's father hit him in the head with a folded copy of The Wall Street Journal as Jason was speeding on the highway.
Laura A. (Jupiter, Florida)
The Starboard Sea -
Buried memories of my college experiences surfaced as I was reading the book. I remembered similar actions, not as intense and violent however, of fraternity brothers who had wealthy parents.
My only critcism is since I know very little about sailing and boats, I kept looking up nautical terms in the dictionary, interrupting the flow of my thought processes. I frequently regretted there was not a glossary in the back of the book and recommend one be in the next edition.
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.
Lucia S. (La Jolla, CA)
If this book had skewed more to the murder mystery genre, perhaps I could have forgiven its poor character development, and been more compelled by the story. Or, if the characters had been written more deeply, perhaps I could have enjoyed it as the literary novel I was hoping it would be. As it is, it's a rather weak novel with weak characters that I just didn't care about, with a predictable and overly-dramatic "mystery" dragging it along. I'm giving it 3 stars because Dermont's prose is occasionally quite fine, so it's difficult to toss the book altogether. But on the other hand, that makes it all the more disappointing.
Jennifer F. (Saratoga, CA)
A Glimpse into Preppy Boarding School
Unfortunately, all the stereotypes are present in this unappealing novel from Amber Dermont. Expected vices and a genuine lack of empathy mark this work as just another peek into the exclusive but nasty world of exclusive boarding schools. Her characters are not sympathetic enough for the reader to care what awaits them. In general, an un-relatable novel, except for the very few readers who have inhabited this world.
Kathrin C. (Corona, CA)
Writing wonderful; story less wonderful
My final sum up on this debut novel of Amber Dermont: Her ability to write extremely well is unmarred. Her very deft play with language in many of her sailing and racing descriptions -wonderful. But her portrayal of the main character, Jason Prosper, became so convoluted, forever twisting through layers of sexual ambiguity, intense grief, teen camaraderie suffused with competition, and exuberant privilege-drenched egoism, I never took any serious interest in Jason Prosper or his world. That all said, I would still be interested in a second novel by this author, hopefully in a different time, a different place, with engaging characters and definitely a more focused story.
Susanne B. (Canton, OH)
The Starboard Sea
This book was well written but I had a difficult time relating to the characters and the sailing terms. Many times I was impatient with the self indulgent, spoiled characters. Ms. Dermont is a good writer and her "male" perspective was very interesting. The prep school genre has been done and I wonder how do these young people survive emotionally? Although I have a serious fear of water the sailing references were lovely. I liked the book but didn't love it. Also, I am not sure my book club would like it.