Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book review: "Nantucket Blue" by Leila Howland

Title: Nantucket Blue
Author: Leila Howland
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; May 7, 2013

Cricket is looking forward to summer vacation, especially after her best friend Jules Clayton asks if she wants to spend the summer with her and her family on the island of Nantucket. She can't wait to spend the summer lying on the beach and working on becoming the girlfriend of Jay Logan, the guy she's had a crush on since 8th grade. But when Jules and her family must deal with a devastating loss, Cricket is left to figure out her own way to spend the summer on the island—while trying to figure out why Jules won't talk to her anymore. Things just get even more complicated when she begins to see Jules's younger brother in a different light.

For the most part I enjoyed this summery read, but it's not my favorite for a number of reasons. One of the first things I noticed (though this was a smaller thing) was how looks-obsessed Cricket is. There is a lot of body image stuff, and she even complains at one point how a boy can be larger and use it as a personality trait while girls have to feel insecure about their non-existent cellulite. I took issue with this, mostly because I didn't appreciate her dismissal of boys and body image. Boys have body issues too, and to say they can use it as a personality trait makes it seem like no boys are self-conscious of their bodies. There were other instances where Cricket is pretty critical of bodies in general, like with Liz (who doesn't care at all by the way, which I loved) who is apparently more full figured. But anyway, that was a minor thing that just bothered me. And to be fair, I can't really remember all the details, so I might be off base; let me know if you think so.

Another issue I had was with the characters. I didn't really feel like I understood why all of a sudden Jules was such a terrible person to Cricket, who granted pushed herself way too far into the Clayton family. Possible spoiler, but not really: Okay, Jules did lose her mother, but from what Cricket describes the way she reacts seems too far off base for me to get why she completely severs their friendship and becomes such a mean person. I couldn't suspend my disbelief considering how inseparable they were prior to Jules' mom's death.

Cricket isn't my favorite person either, mostly because she can't seem to make a good decision until the very end of the book. I kept yelling at her in my head to NOT DO THAT while I was reading, but alas she couldn't hear me. I never really felt like I connected with the characters or understood the reasons behind their actions, and if I did I didn't really care. Zack was the most likable main character, as he seemed like a real person and more fully developed, though Liz is thoroughly enjoyable as a secondary character (new friend from England, works at the same hotel Cricket ends up working at).

Despite these flaws, there were some things I liked about the novel. My favorite element was the use of the book of Emily Dickinson poetry that Cricket's mom used as a diary when she spent a summer on the island, a book that Cricket ends up with because she has the same summer reading her mom did when she was in high school. Cricket tries to help her mother get out of her depression caused by her divorce from Cricket's father, trying to find clues in the diary to lure her out to Nantucket to meet someone and start dating again. I do like a little mother-daughter understanding/bonding.

The setting was also wonderful. I've only been to Nantucket once, but it made me want to go back for a vacation and just enjoy what the place has to offer. I can't wait for beach weather.

Even though there are certainly elements that turned me off from the book, Nantucket Blue has enough redeeming qualities to make it a decent summer read, provided you like drama and romance. I would recommend it for the lovely setting and the bit of mystery surrounding Cricket's mom's diary, but that's just me.

Disclosure: I got a e-book for review via NetGalley.

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