March 13, 2006

Adventures in the Deep

She lives her life in EXCLAMATION POINTS and big, theatrical sighs. Her name is Birdie Sidwell, and of course you know her, don't you? I mean, everybody does. She's had this horrible life, you know. She had asthma. She got a plain old PC for her birthday, not the orange Mac she wanted. Her best friend is totally popular, but really, her life's the pits -- so that makes her bossy and sarcastic, and her best friend's Mom -- whoa. Good thing Birdie's parents are taking her to the Caribbean for a year, where she can be her colorful and fabulous self while they all rest up from their strenuous normal lives. Good thing Birdie will have new people to talk to, new adventures to have, right? I mean, something will finally happen in her life, after all, she's been writing stories about adventures for all of her thirteen years, so it's about time she has some!

Birdie should have been careful what she wished for.

She lives her life in silence, in the steady rhythms of routine, in the cadence of wind, swells, and the sea. She hasn't got anything else, anyone else, not anymore. Her nomadic parents have turned from being world-class sailors into being world-class drunks. When they lost first her newborn brother, then her older sister to the sea, they seemed to have lost all hope, and all reason to live. Sixteen years old, Morgan has been captain of her parent's large sailboat for years, while her parents drift deeper into drunkenness and despair, tying up at dubious portside towns, making deals with thieves, partying away their funds, and forgetting that they have one last child left. Desperate with loneliness, Morgan makes a break for the sea, where she silently communicates with Oona, her sister she lost, for guidance, and tries to stretch her mind to encompass that enormous loss. "Set your own course," has been her parent's only rule, and so Morgan does. In time, she begins to heal, but she runs across Tricky Nicky, a dangerous man who knows she has no legal rights to her parents boat, and no papers. Nicky's out to steal her boat -- and maybe something more.

Told in a tensely layered, chapter-by-chapter alternating point of view, Susanna Vance's Deep proposes a dizzying reach between two girls vastly different -- one with real troubles, one with troubles imagined -- and brings them together in a riveting tale of dangerous people and daring escapes that keeps you page-turning until the story is through. An excellently suspensful read.

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