Contemporary; young adult
Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach since she was a little girl. It’s her summer getaway, her refuge. Her friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had, completing her summer family.
But this summer is different.
Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and Rose and Windy have gotten tangled up in a tragedy-in-the-making in the small town of Awago Beach. It’s a summer of secrets and heartache, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
My thoughts: (spoilers)
I went into this one blind, which I think is the best thing to do. I didn’t even read the overview of the book. I picked it up out of curiosity: BookTubers have said it’s a good story and since it was available at my library I thought to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
There’s a lot of emotion packed in, which I also didn’t expect. The beginning gives the impression that Rose and her family are going on a regular summer vacation, which they are, but as the story progresses, we see that the veneer of normalcy is used to cover the underlying tension within the family that stems from Rose’s mother’s depression.
It was sad to see the mother struggle with her burden and see the father and Rose try to be understanding but eventually lose patience and become angry. I got the impression that it is difficult, sometimes, for parents to find space to deal with their emotional problems alone or to avoid having it deeply affect the rest of the family. One of my favorite parts was toward the end when Rose’s mom dives in the ocean to save Jenny, which helped to heal her.
Water has always been used in stories as a substance for cleansing or washing away guilt or sins or worries and such was the case here. It is also used as a substance for healing and that’s what happened for Rose’s mom. It’s as if she was baptized and given a new life, if one were to look at it from a Christian point of view. Also, it’s a bit ironic the ocean does this because her depression stems from losing a baby in that same water she has since refused to enter and the girl she saves attempted suicide in the ocean because of pressure from a pregnancy. It’s interesting that returning to the beginning of her suffering worked as a catharsis for Rose’s mom.
My other favorite parts were all the moments where Rose and Windy just hung out and had fun relaxing in each other’s company. I enjoyed reading of their little adventures and seeing them form their own opinions about the world and the teenage drama they overhear. Rose and Windy are preteens. With them at that age, it’s easy to see how kids are influenced by culture and what they observe, such as them calling Jenny a slut because of what the teens say. However, of the two, Windy is my favorite. She is so carefree and honest. Rose can be a little mean, but I think that’s because of what her family is going through. While reading, I wondered if Windy was once molested or something because of how she acts when sexual topics are raised and when the guys are around. But maybe she just doesn’t feel comfortable at that time since she is a little younger than Rose. I don’t know.
At first, I was annoyed that we only get a peek into the characters’ lives for a few days. It was obvious that that would be the structure of the story from pretty early on, but by the end, I was glad I’d read it and was craving more.
Here’s another thing I didn’t expect to like — the art. I don’t know how to describe the style so see the pictures below, but usually I don’t like it. I love it here, though. My favorite frames are the ones that mostly show the landscape and vegetation. I like how the characters are drawn as well, especially Windy because she has a lot of movement, but the faces threw me off sometimes.
The color is good too. Instead of the usual black ink, we have navy blue. To me it makes the illustrations less stark because the dark blue ink seems softer. That’s probably why I like the art style here.
Overall: ★★★★☆ 1/2
It is a wonderful book about girlhood, growing up, overcoming guilt, and battling depression. Though it tackles difficult topics and can be emotional at times, it also has a light-hearted tone in some parts because it’s still about a summer spent at the beach having fun with friends.
It’s a good read that’s perfect for the summer and I recommend it. I hope there will be a sequel and more books from Jillian and Mariko.