Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reading Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland on Nantucket Island

The Rainbow Parade at Nantucket Island on August 15, 2013 ©

Step Beach ©
Every summer since I was a child, my family gathers on Nantucket Island. This year I read Nantucket Blue on location. I was impressed that young adult author Leila Howland found Step Beach. The access path is nestled between houses on the Cliff and then descends wooden steps to a long narrow beach. It's popular with us dog walkers. She also found my favorite sandwich: Something Natural's Cheddar and Chutney (but add avocado on pumpernickel.)

Howland has a good ear for teens and a fine eye for amusing details. Although it sounds like satire, many summer people actually dress like this:

"The parents were dressed in clothes as vivid as their children's. Grown men wore kelly-green pants stitched with yellow whales."

Unlike her best friend Jules, 17-year-old Cricket is not super rich. She had planned to stay at Jules's summerhouse, but when Jules's mom dies, the invitation is rescinded. Resourceful Cricket finds a chambermaid job with free housing (this is fiction!) so she can be there for her friend. Their unbalanced friendship was well rendered with clever foreshadowing:

"I liked the way I felt around Jules- like I was tipping backward in a chair, on the edge of falling."

When grieving Jules turns her back on her best friend, Cricket falls into a clandestine relationship with Jules's younger brother. Zack is a nice boy, but young is not the same as innocent. Sex is on the mind of all the characters, although the act is not described in print. The writing style was typical of the romance genre, but there were some nice additions like phosphorescence in the night sea. Having a younger boyfriend was a fresh tack too. The setting made Nantucket Blue an ideal beach book.

Sunset at Brant Point, Nantucket Island ©

It was a welcome surprise to find that Nantucket Blue was more than a summer romance. With an eye on college applications, Cricket takes a second job as an unpaid intern for an author writing a senator's biography. At this point, I'd hoped we'd get some meaningful reflection on politics, but the biographer's focus was on the senator's ruthless social climbing and scandalous secrets. This angle would certainly appeal to the young adult audience. Teens often view the world through the polarized lenses of popularity.

Like many debut novels, Nantucket Blue suffered a bit from an overworked ending. Cricket works too hard to tie up all plot strings: she confronts a former flame and then flies off island for two days to resolve backstory issues with her family. The story would have felt more realistic with some uncertainty. It was still an impressive debut overall. I look forward to reading more by this talented author.

I'd recommend Nantucket Blue to teenaged girls and to Nantucket vacationers especially. The Beach House by Jane Green, also set on Nantucket Island, would be a better choice for adult readers.

Reviewer's Disclosure: I bought the ebook because the cover would have embarrassed my teenage kids if I were reading beside them on the beach. The hardcover book was prominently displayed at Nantucket Bookworks, where I bought The Age of Miracles in paperback and Beautiful Ruins on CD.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Photo is the Cover of a New Song

You might remember the photo from my Oxford Sabbatical Highlights post. I never thought this whimsical image would end up on the cover of a three minutes of fame.

I'm on blog vacation next week. I'll be back online August 28th. Happy Summer!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Saving Simpsons Point & Watching the Tides

My town has several boat launches, but Simpsons Point is the only public access to ocean swimming. On hot summer days at high tide, a friendly mix of locals and summer visitors gather. Real Mainers don't seem to mind hypothermia, but I grew up in New York City. My idea of a two-piece bathing suit is this wet suit. Laugh at me through your blue lips.

My favorite time to swim is early morning, when the tide cooperates. Peeking through the mist, islands hide from the rising sun. Every stroke is a brush on canvas, rippling the placid blue. Sometimes my husband and I spot a kayaker or a harbor seal, but mostly we're alone with the shorebirds. To warm up, we bike 4 miles back to our house in town. There is no better way to start a day.

When in Maine, check a tide chart before swimming or boating. At low tide estuaries become mudflats. Simpsons Point is best within 2 hours of high tide.

Brunswick Residents: tonight the Marine Resource Committee is considering a proposal to re-open Simpsons Point to power boats. If you're a swimmer or a paddler, please come in support of Brunswick's only public swimming access to the sea. Tonight's meeting will be at Brunswick Station at 7PM on Wednesday August 5th (wrong date printed in the Times Record yesterday). A second meeting will be on Monday August 12th at 5PM. More info in The Times Record.