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Title: Beyond the Bright Sea
Author: Lauren Wolk
Published By: Dutton Books for Young Readers (2017)
Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar. Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.
Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Seais a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family. (Taken from Goodreads.)
I wasn’t impressed. It was okay, I guess. While the writing had spectacular moments, the plot failed to keep up with it. I immediately was fascinated by Crow, an apparent orphan living on an island with Osh, her caretaker, and an orphan’s search to find her parents is a storyline that always intrigues me. However, I really didn’t feel like it lived up to what I thought it would be. Rather than compelling me, captivating me, enthralling me, this story rather felt like the author grasping at straws and making up for the lack of story by extravagent (and they WERE good) descriptions, paragraphs, chapters. The story really just felt really weak, like a watered down version of what it could have been.
However, I did like the themes of family that crept in. I especially liked how even in the depths of her search for her “real” family, Crow is still insistant to Osh that he is more her father than anything else. Despite not having a storybook family, Crow really does have a family, and she has all she needs, and I really liked that aspect of the story.
The rest of the book felt like a bland narration, without much emotion, but just excitement to make the book more interesting, not to move the plot forward. I never once was scared by Mr. Kendall or even midly intimidated; the only thing that left me unsure was the unpredictability of the author—what happened regarding this mysterious character literally could have gone either way—but it being I didn’t have a strong tie to Crow or Osh, I really could have cared less regardless. Everything felt very one-dimensional; and nonetheless it was a good one-dimensional story, but I just think it could have been a lot better with a little more characterization, a little more emotion, and a little more length. Every action was piled on top of the previous one, leaving no room to breathe, process, or feel anything for any characters.
On the other hand, though, even though I just said it lacked characterization, to an extent the characters were developed well enough to be able to predict their behavior, but it backfired, for the story became boring. The characters were too solid, too predictable, and I guess that was my main problem—none of them felt real, for none of them had any real flaws. Crow, Osh, Miss Maggie: they were all perfect in their own way. Not once can I remember seeing any fraction of a flaw in any of them, which made the story feel bland and fake.
I also was extremely disappointed with the ending. Leading up dramatically, and then just ditching the plot so quickly, made no sense to me. All this drawn-out, built up suspense, clues, and mystery about Jason and it literally went nowhere. Just dropped off the face of the story a few pages before ending. Again, the feeling like the author was grasping at straws. If I were the editor, I would have deleted Jason altogether. It added absolutely nothing to the story save for a feeling of having wasted one’s time reading.
While the writing and descriptiveness was exceptional, and the themes were beautiful, the rest of the story was watered down and weak. The characters had no flaws, making them feel fake, and the plot was weak and hardly held together for the duration of the story.
Recommended to: I’m indifferent to this book. If you want to read it, read it, if you don’t, don’t. I really have no suggestion either way.