Sunday, May 20, 2007

Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson

Girl at Sea, is, sadly, my first Maureen Johnson book. She's one of those authors who has just blown by me and I realize now how deprived my reading experience was because of that omission.

So with the above, I bet you're thinking, Joanna, you must really like Girl at Sea. The answer is that it didn't quite hit my enthusiasm button, but it is a quality summer read. One thing for sure, I am a huge fan of Maureen's bright, crisp writing and her and sly nudges of hilarity. She reminds me quite a bit of one of my other favorite YA novelists, Sarah Dessen. While I haven't loved all of Sarah's books, I will certainly read her next one the very moment I can get my hands on it. I feel this will be the same for Maureen, too. But on to Girl At Sea.

Clio is 17, lives with her art school mom, and just landed her dream job at the local art supply store where, not coincidentally, a certain 6 foot 5 hottie works. Clio goes home to tell her mom the great news when it is shattered by her mom's news that she is moving to Kansas for the summer for an art restoration project, taking her boyfriend with her, but not Clio. Our heroine is going to be shipped out to her somewhat estranged father for the summer. He has a boat that he's taking out to the Mediterranean and wouldn't Clio just love to go? Um, no. Hello? Hottie at the new super wonderful summer employment! Commence Clio's Summer of Suck.

Clio's dad has been sort of a disappointment. She blames him for a lot of stuff including the divorce. In one of the genius plot lines, Clio and her Dad are former celebrities... for developing a board game! They made a lot of money fast, had a quick, charmed life, and then it all went to hell. So now Clio is in Italy on a boat with her dad and a crew of 3 more, including a Cheese Goddess. The whole reason for the trip is a mystery and to top it off, her father refuses to tell her why. Seems everyone knows why but her and they have been ordered not to tell her. Oh wait, it gets better, he denies her contact with the non-boat world, she isn't permitted in certain rooms on the boat, and she has to be the cook! No “please”, no “would you mind”.

Okay, this is where I lost it. I wanted Clio to raise hell. I wanted her to throw stuff overboard, break down doors, and confront her dad and all of his secrecy. Literally, I had to put the book down and walk away.

I'm a 32 year old adolescent. This is what this book did to me. Getting passed my childish reaction actually took effort. You'll be glad to know that Clio is a better adult than I am.

So, yes, there is a mystery which makes this a little more than a sea story and a girl who has a very weird relationship with her dad. Intertwined are chapters that take place at the turn of the 20th century that shed light what the whole boat trip may be up to. There is action. There is suspense. There is kissing. Have fun with this one this summer.