First Lines: I open my eyes at midnight to the sound of the ocean and my brother’s breathing. It’s been ten months since Cal drowned, but the dreams still escape.
I’ve read one or two books by Cath Crowley before, so I sort of knew how the writing style would be here. The other book(s) I read had a lot of depth and a lot of realism. From the book jacket, I knew this was going to be similar in that way.
Once upon a time, Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie were best friends. They did everything together. But then Rachel’s family moved to the sea and the two fell out, leaving Henry stuck in his life at his family’s used bookstore–never knowing that Rachel left him a note in his favorite book. Now Rachel’s back, reluctantly working with Henry at the bookstore while grieving for her brother. She’s searching for meaning and advice in the words people have left behind in books. But maybe she’ll learn how to live life again, with the help of a friend…
This ended up being mostly what I thought it would be: a sweet story of old friends finding each other again amid some pretty awful tragedies. It’s bittersweet.
Rachel’s brother Cal died about 10 months ago and she’s still far from over it. She can’t feel much else except her grief, which is why she gets sent back to her old hometown, where she’s going to live with her aunt and try to make a fresh start. Henry’s girlfriend Amy has just broken up with him and almost immediately moves on with someone else, while Henry has to watch. Both are heartbroken in their own ways and it’s going to take leaning on each other to start to recover.
What’s kind of cool about this is the bookstore setting. Henry’s family owns a secondhand bookshop that also has a Letters Library in it, where people are encouraged to leave notes in the margins and letters within the pages. It’s a fun little idea, even if the type of book nerd I am really dislikes writing in books. But it’s definitely what helps drive this plot, as the characters frequently leave or find things in the books.
Oh, and the story’s set in Australia. That’s also pretty cool, though I definitely had to consciously think about the seasons being flipped. I think they talk about summer in January and that was startling for a second until I remembered.
The characters have their low points and their high points, but I really just liked that they were able to fail with each other and learn and become better for it. Rachel and Henry are just two young, broken people with the world ahead of them, if only they can see it. It’s sweet with a good message.