This post is part of The 2012 Netgalley Reading Challenge hosted by Red House Books.
The Starboard Sea sets you up for heartbreak. It really does. It makes you fall in love with a boy named Jason Prosper, a rich kid who has been kicked out of his fancy prep school for cheating on a calculus test. Yeah, I know, calculus broke my heart too. It makes you fall in love with the sport of sailing and the setting of the beautiful, yet dangerous ocean. And then, Dermont takes it all away. With a string of words, Dermont will “destroy everything beautiful” for the reader in this world.
Jason’s self-involved family barely seems to notice that this act of cheating is a desperate call for help after Jason finds his best friend has committed suicide. Instead, he is enrolled in Bellinghem, the prep school of second chances. Everyone at Bellinghem has screwed up elsewhere and not surprisingly, the school is lax on the rules. It’s here that Jason has to grow up fast and it’s here that things ultimately get harder for him too.
It’s hard not to compare The Starboard Sea to Catcher in the Rye. There are very similar themes and similar characters. But while Holden Caulfield is more angry and Jason Prosper is more sad, they both share a common loneliness. I especially love how Dermont uses the language around sailing and sea navigation to describe growing up. You spend most of novel slowly learning more about the best friend’s suicide and in the end, only some of the questions get answered. I loved the open-endedness of the ending. If the name “Jason Prosper” is any hint, there is also much hope in this story.
I think if it weren’t for some of the harder subjects in this book (suicide, homosexuality), The Starboard Sea would have fit into the young adult genre. I recommend this one to anyone loves a good tear-jerker like Catcher in the Rye or to anyone that wants to remember that growing up is a wonderful journey but it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
Updated on 2/27/2012: Visit Pam Writes for an interview with Dermont & learn how you can win a copy of the book!
Related Penguins: Decline and Fall is Hilarious but Mostly Horrible