Middle Grade Monday: Beyond the Bright Sea


Title: Beyond the Bright Sea
Author: Lauren Wolk
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books, 2017. 283 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:
Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow's only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.

Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn't until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.

Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk's Beyond the Bright Sea is a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family

My Review: 
I picked this book up because I read and was impressed by the author's first book, Wolf Hollow. Though this book was very different, it provided me with further proof that Lauren Wolk is a writer to watch. This book is, in some ways, a mystery, but it's a mystery that is all about the meaning of family and the meaning of love. Wolk throws in some high-stakes adventure, and nails the coming-of-age novel yet again as Crow learns what is important.

The prose is beautiful, and the story powerful. It's not the adventure and the scary bits that make it so, not for me anyway. For me, the power is in the slow sorting-out of the relationships between Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie, as well as the other islanders. I was left with some things that I still wanted to know, but as those are the very things that Crow has spent the book learning aren't important, I guess I should be satisfied!

The time and place (it's set in the 1920s on some pretty remote islands) is beautifully evoked, giving me a feel for the slower pace of the life Crow is living. I thought at first there were no other people about, but gradually realized that there is a more sinister reason why Crow only associates with the two adults. So the story is also about human fear and how cruel it can make us.

In that sense, it is much the same as Wolf Hollow, and is a book we all need to read.

My Recommendation:
This is perfectly keyed for the upper-elementary crowd (9-12), but it is so well-written and evocative of another time and place that I think most adults will enjoy it as well. Wolk also shines a light on a bit of history (I won't say what because that would be a spoiler) that most of us know little about, but which isn't one of our more shining moments. This is a writer to watch.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Beyond the Bright Sea out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  


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