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Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on 30th August 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Family, Fiction, Friendship, General, Love & Romance, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
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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.
Have you ever read a book which you’ve loved and yet you can’t quite find the words to describe why? Or just how much it made you feel whilst reading it? That is what has happened to me with the book Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley. In many ways that is sort of ironic because Words in Deep Blue is a book all about words, love and the relationship between them. This is a love story featuring love in so many ways not just the romantic (but there is a lovely dose of romance in there too).
Henry has lived his entire life in Howling Books – a second hand bookstore his parents have run for over two decades. It’s a place where he’s grown up learning about life, love and literature. Then Henry’s girlfriend breaks up with him and his mother has moved out. The future of Howling Books is in doubt.
Rachel was in love with Henry but in the three years since she saw him last, she’s changed. She’s not the same girl who knew him then. Her brother died. Her world fell apart. Now she’s back in the city, still grieving, going through the motions of living.
Cath Crowley has created some incredible characters in this book. Both Rachel and Henry are on the cusp of adulthood with their futures in front of them but both are stuck in the past. Henry’s romance with Amy leads him to believe there is a future based on their history. And Rachel’s grief for her brother and not knowing how to move forward in a world without him in it. I loved reading about their lives from their own points of view and also how the other person saw them. The contrast between Henry’s artistic type soul and Rachel’s love of concrete facts and figures worked well to show their differences. And their love for Howling Books and the people who inhabit it highlighted all Henry and Rachel had in common.
Hand written letters from people past and present feature throughout the novel and I loved how they were woven into the story. The Letters Library within Howling Books is a collection of non-sale books where people can leave notes to loved ones, highlight passages and leave leave annotations in the margins. I adore the idea of the Letters Library and the significance it has for those who use it. It is important to every character in the novel and has history for them all but in very different ways.
Words in Deep Blue also has its bittersweet moments. Rachel is grieving the loss of her beloved brother and it’s evident in all that she does. I loved how the author handled Rachel’s loss and her coming to terms with his death. I felt like I got to know exactly the kind of person Cal was from her memories in combination with how Henry and George saw him too.
I think what made Words in Deep Blue such a special read for me was not just the characters and the setting but the pacing. Watching Henry and Rachel deal with their pasts in order to have a future was paced beautifully. I believed in them and their stories. Seeing them rekindle their friendship and working out what was important in life was handled in a way which felt believable and right. There was a point where they stopped being just characters and became real people to me. The secondary cast were a pleasure to read and their lives wove in and out of Henry and Rachel’s seamlessly.
If you read only one contemporary YA novel this year, make it Words in Deep Blue. A beautiful crafted story about love, family, friendship and moving on – Words in Deep Blue is a book which will stay with you long after the final page.
Many thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for the review copy.
Click here to read my Q&A with author, Cath Crowley.