Publisher: Verona Booksellers
Jay Murchison believes he is a nobody at his high school in Oklahoma. Coming from a conservative family of affordable luxury, Jay has an overwhelming desire to become something great. After a mysterious girl named Saphnie in North Carolina mistakenly texts him, an unlikely relationship develops that affects Jay’s self-perception and influences the rest of his sophomore year. This correspondence leads him to a group of thrill-seekers who provide a grand departure from the quiet life Jay is familiar with and eye-opening experiences to witness first-hand the truth behind the loose morals his fellow classmates have come to know.
In a story filled with injustice, hope, hatred, love, grief, and understanding, readers will ask themselves what it truly means to hear the ocean sigh and learn of the dire consequences that come with its responsibilities.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinion on the novel or its author.
I was a little bit hesitant to pick up a coming-of-age novel in my final months of high school. To me, coming-of-age has always seemed a little too realistic to be enjoyable, if that makes any sense. When I was fourteen, I didn’t want to read about pimples and popularity paranoia because I was living it. These days, I’m far happier to pretend those dark times never happened – I don’t need a book to stir up all those dark memories I’ve shoved into a bottomless pit in the recesses of my mind.
Nonetheless, I am so glad I decided to read this novel.
Like all coming-of-age novels, To Hear The Ocean Sigh deals with real issues that real teens face. Unlike most coming-of-age novels, it’s genuine. Heartfelt. Loney isn’t necessarily using his novel to uplift teens or warp their struggles into a cringe-worthy comedy – he’s sharing a story that most teens have either witnessed or experienced firsthand, and he does so without romanticizing or undermining his characters’ problems.
I loved most things about this book. It’s an almost perfect representation of real life in high school, from the difficulties of identifying personality disorders, depression and broken backgrounds underneath picture-perfect facades, to the struggle of trying to fit in when you don’t even know who you’re supposed to be, let alone how you should get people to like you. The characters were extremely well developed, and their tendency to irritate the hell out of me was really just a result of them being so similar to actual sixteen-year-olds. Nobody really likes you when you’re sixteen – you’re annoying and whiny and care too much about what other people think about your hair, or whatever. But you’re just beginning to develop your own opinions, which brings about such delicious confusion and conflict that it drives everybody crazy. Jay, Lily, Ethan and Saphne were exactly that: they were real and they were diverse and they were interesting and they were beautiful in their brokenness. And that was perfect.
Loney’s writing style was also stunning. He managed to find the ideal balance between simplicity, accessibility and delicate detail – perfect for a coming-of-age novel. Although I got a bit restless in the last fifty or so pages on account of the pace slowing down significantly, the ending completely made up for it. The last few pages were heartbreaking, and all of a sudden Loney’s style transformed into this fragile and bittersweet masterpiece. I don’t think I breathed from page 258 until I turned the final page.
A wonderful story as moving as it is unique.
Recommended to: Pretty much all teens in their awkward phase.
The Last Word
Please can more teenagers write coming-of-age novels like this one? I needed more of this when I was drowning in angst at fifteen, not endlessly condescending “these are the best years of your life” novels written by those who've forgotten how confusing it is to be stuck in the in-between phase of old-child. Teens don’t have the benefit of hindsight (or foresight), so it’s helpful to have a novel written from the perspective of somebody who still remembers what it feels like to doubt that life even carries on, let alone gets better.
~Thank you to Wes Florentine from Verona Booksellers for providing me with the opportunity to review this book.~