First Lines: What does it matter if / another jock pinches me / as I walk down the hall to Physics / and high fives Troy, celebrating / like he just scored / the season’s first touchdown?
When I was at the library last, I was half looking for something that just jumped out at me from the shelves. This was it. Between the cover and the author (who wrote this beautiful book called Sing Me to Sleep), I figured I had a pretty decent shot at liking it.
Leesie lives by more rules than most teenagers she knows: No kissing. No sex. No dating anyone outside the Mormon faith. But when Michael enters her life, she needs to rethink her rules. Michael is hurting badly. A deep-sea diver whose parents just died in a hurricane on their boat, he suddenly finds himself orphaned and away from the diving world he knows. In him, Leesie sees someone who needs her help. They fall for each other, even though his heart is in the depths of the ocean and hers is in the salvation above. Which will win out: their hearts or their beliefs?
The story is told in a slightly unconventional way. Leesie’s perspective is nearly entirely poems and chat messages. (This book is a little older, so it uses something like AIM rather than texting to communicate between characters.) Michael’s is from his diving log, which he uses much like a journal. It seemed to fit both of their personalities and I felt like it was another way for me to get to know them.
The characters were interesting as well. Michael is completely wracked with guilt over his parents’ deaths and doesn’t know how to deal with that. As an outsider, I kept seeing his missteps and wanted to push him back on the right path. He’s a sympathetic character because he’s hurting and he’s got a kind heart, but he’s also the kind of character who has a short-fused temper. So sometimes he wasn’t always that sympathetic. And I think I liked him that way. I didn’t pity him the whole story.
Leesie is a devote Mormon, which was a little weird for me as I knew absolutely nothing about their actual faith. (It’s a bit different from the bits of Catholicism and Protestantism I’ve picked up over the years.) She was sweet and trusting, though sometimes a bit naive and too helpful. Again, having that as something slightly negative actually made her a more appealing character. It also helped that she (perhaps unintentionally?) struggled with her faith. And that’s incredibly relatable.
There is a fair amount of religion in this. I’m not going to say there’s not. I’m not a religious person and I’m really finicky about what I’m ok reading, and this passed my test. Here’s why: even though Leesie tries to convert Michael, she never comes off as preachy. She comes off more of “This is who I am, this is who I want to be, and I would like to introduce you to this world that means so much to me.” That kind of attitude I’m fine with. It’s when you get forceful that I have a problem.
As if it wasn’t already somewhat obvious, it’s a clean romance. Which does not mean it’s boring. Far from it. It takes some expert skill to make a reader melt just from characters holding hands. I totally melted…and sometimes it was less contact than holding hands!
It was actually a really gripping story, which I wasn’t expecting. There were times that I was glued to the book trying to figure out what happened next.
The only real negative I had with this book was that sometimes it dipped into the realm of melodrama or the over-dramatic. It didn’t happen often, but there were times when I nearly laughed going, “Really? That’s the way the plot’s going to go?” But hey, lots of books do that.
Overall, a very impressive read. Just go in with an open mind.