A Barren Field of Fucks

Second Star - Alyssa B. Sheinmel
”Some of us have only ever found home when we’re on water. Some of us are always waiting for the next wave.”

My face was in a perpetual state of a frown while reading this book that I feel like sending the Botox bill to the publishers. 

Seventeen year-old Wendy Darling has a bright future ahead of her who can’t seem to let go of a tragic past. Her brothers Michael and John went to surf one morning and never came home. Her parents and the police seem to have given up on the search but not Wendy, she’s convinced they’re still alive, waiting for her to figure out the scavenger hunt they’ve set out for her where the prize is her family that seem to have disappeared with them. In her search she runs into a group of free-spirited surfers living in a cove called Kensington led by the freckled and charming Pete with whom she’s drawn to. But as secrets begin to unravel among Pete’s crew, Wendy’s search takes her to the opposite side of Kensington where the enigmatic, fairy dust-dealer Jas lives.

Who she’s also drawn to.

Torn between a drug-dealer and a thief, will Wendy have the time and focus to actually find John and Michael?

I suppose there’s an element of rebellious panache in the refusal of a book to avoid as much cliches and stereotypes as possible. To not giving one iota of effort to actually avoid them… that takes some balls. 

And Second Star did exactly that with much aplomb.

Of course I ended up hating every single one of them: the TSTL heroine, the love triangle, the big misunderstanding, the doubled-up insta-love, the WTF plot twist. It felt like being caught in the middle of a group hug you didn’t want to be in the middle of, but you’re buried deep into that pile of unholy awfulness, its impossible to move against it and you’ll just be better off riding the horror out.

I’m not even militantly against love triangles as a plot device but I am also the kind of reader who demands substance in using that ploy in the stories I read. This had none. It felt like a distraction that severely cheapens whatever emotional currency John and Michael’s disappearance should have. A mark of an effective love triangle for me is when I can actually sympathize with the heroine, where the issue is not Team Dude A vs Team Dude B but that the reader ends up on the side of Team Chicks Before Dicks. When I start to wish Dude A and Dude B start to make sweet sweet love with each other over the heroine’s dead body… I think we have a problem. 

(This is when I feel I should really read Twilight just so I can use those funny Jacob-Edward memes where they make-out)

I’m going to do away with what little positives I saw in this “radical reinvention of a classic” (read: in which every character is faithfully unfaithful to whoever they were based from Peter Pan)

1. Great job advertising surfing. I’ve only ever read one other book on surfing (Maverick) and I did like the impassioned and evocative representation of the joys and thrills of the sport. I did think it was pushing things too far making it seem like the solution to every problem out there (from drug addiction to missing siblings) and at the end of the day, the idea of swimming towards a ten-foot wall of water on a slab of wood still terrifies me. But I did feel the second (third? very very distant fourth?) hand adrenaline from Sheinmel’s evident enthusiasm for the subject matter.

2. I did like the way this author writes . thought it served the story quite well because I did not expect the direction this one took based from how she was telling the it. I’d like to pride myself of not being surprised by much these days (because, I am a little paranoid) but it did catch me off-guard. Mostly because the way this was written prevents you from thinking it’s offering anything beyond what is apparent. If I was impressed with it is an entirely different matter though.

I usually like this kind of… resolution. But then I realize that it’s really contingent upon how well affected I was by the story, how invested I was with the characters and how willing am I to revisit that ending over and over throughout my day to make sense of it all. 

Ambiguity and fucks given apparently go hand in hand and in this case, one of the two is missing.

Review Copy courtesy of the publishers.