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 She had planned to stay at Jules's summerhouse, but when Jules's mom dies, the invitation is rescinded.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.


tina said...

Sounds like a perfect setting to read this book.

Sorry I haven't been around too much. I've been so busy and have slowed down blogging a lot but I'm trying to hang in there.

Margie said...

Sounds like it was a book that you really enjoyed in spite of the drawbacks and how perfect to read it on Nantucket Island, it's so beautiful there and your pictures are gorgeous!

Smiles ...

David Cranmer said...

Looking at that pic and reading your post, geez, I want to get back to Maine. Yeah, I know its Nantucket Island but I'm so far away it all looks like my beloved state. And I'll remember Cheddar and Chutney ( & to add avocado on pumpernickel.) Sounds yummy as they say.

Amanda Summer said...

for some reason, this story reminded me of nonfiction book i read a while back entitled a likely story, by rosemary mahoney, in which she spent a summer on martha's vineyard as a domestic helper for the writer lillian hellman. mahoney did not come from a wealthy family but she writes as a bystander in a vacation spot for people of means. how interesting that you are reading a book about the place you are staying. i'm currently vacationing on an island as well - hoping yours is restful and that you are enjoying time with your family.

A Cuban In London said...

Many thanks for such a lovely review. I have just come back from beautiful Shropshire where my family and I stayed in a farm in the middle of nowhere. I'm still on blog vacation, though, until early September.

Greetings from London.

troutbirder said...

Sounds like a wonderfully relaxing place for a family get together and place to read. We're doing our first ever island vacation in the Florida Keys in January. With lots of books...:)

Rose said...

I remember reading some book when I was a girl that was set on Nantucket. I've always wanted to visit it since then, and your gorgeous photos have re-kindled that wish. I'd like to sit on the beach and watch that parade of sailboats!

Booksnyc said...

Nantucket is on the list of places I want to visit. I hope you like Age of Miracles - I thought it was great.

Sarah Laurence said...

All, sorry, I’m a bit behind on blog comments, but I’m catching up on this rainy Sunday morning. It has been a busy couple of weeks – more on Wednesday.

Tina, welcome back! I understand. I’m looking forward to seeing your new garden.

Margie, yes, Nantucket Blue was a fun book to read.

David, it’s all New England. I hope you make it back soon.

Amanda, A Likely Story does sound similar. I’ll look for it next summer. I hope you enjoyed your vacation.

ACIL, sounds like an ideal family vacation.

Troutbirder, island vacations with books do seem to be a theme here. Looking forward to your posts!

Patricia and Daniel, welcome to my blog! This week I reviewed a novel with Polish characters on my blog, ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein.

Rose, the Rainbow Parade are mostly old wooden boats – it’s lovely.

Booknyc, yes, you’re one of the bloggers who encouraged me to buy THE AGE OF MIRACLES.

Donna said...

I love Nantucket Bookworks; it's such a great little shop. One of my favorite tote bags is from there. :) That's neat that your family goes to Nantucket each summer. I can't wait to go there again. It's a beautiful place!

Carol said...

What a lovely place to gather with your family each year Sarah. I have only visited Nantucket once and fell in love with the cobblestones and charming architecture. I will always remember sailing around the island. Wonderful photos of the sailboats and especially fabulous sunset photo. Gorgeous!