Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on August 30, 2016
This is a love story.It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.
If I had seen Words in Deep Blue on a library or bookshop shelf, I would not have picked it up. I would have passed over it completely. Why? The cover does not draw me in, though it is gorgeous. The story does not sound like something that would be filled with adventure or excitement. Luckily, I did not find this book on a shelf. It came in the mail from a good friend of mine who told me that it was one of her favorite reads of 2018. I set it on my bookshelf and promptly walked away from it. One night, out of sheer boredom, I picked it up and started reading. Less than 48 hours later, I finished it. I was in love with it. I was suggesting it to people around me. I know that 2019 has just started, but I truly believe that this will be the title that surprises me the most this year.
This book deals heavily with loss and acceptance. Both can be difficult concepts for the human mind and emotions to deal with. They are especially difficult for Rachel as she loses everything she once knew. She has no idea how she fits into the world anymore. Instead of undergoing some form of huge and dramatic change, Crowley allows her audience to see the subtle and realistic changes that a person must go through in order to deal with such an extreme amount of pain and loneliness. There is no extraordinary depth to Rachel because the depth isn't realistic to the character. What's needed is some brutal honesty and that's just what Rachel delivers.
Henry, on the other hand, struggles with regret, confusion, and loss. He is forced into a peacemaker role that was never should have been his role to fill. Life forces him to learn the difference between love and lust. He is steamrolled by the consequences of his decisions. Again, Crowley delivers a very subtle character because we don't need all the fancy bits for this novel to create magic. We simply need to see the portrait of stark reality that her words paint.
Additionally, the plot of this novel is rather predictable. I know that this has been a huge issue for many of the reviewers that I've read. For me, it makes perfect sense. I believe that Crowley wrote this novel to bring us a beautifully written snapshot into the lives of these characters. Life is often predictable. It would have taken away from the poignancy of her words if the story was filled with wacky twists and turns. After all, this is not a book to make us laugh or send us on a crazy attention. This book simply hands you the lives of the characters and asks you to love them the way they are. Even if it is a little predictable. Even if the characters don't change in a gigantic way, they learn from the things life hands them. That, in itself, is a lesson we all need to learn.