Words in Deep Blue: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“And if there is no hope of saving the thing we love in their original form, we must save them however we can.”

“Sometimes, the end begins.”

Rachel Sweetie lays her heart bear when she writes Henry Jones a love letter and leaves it in his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. It is the ultimate grand gesture before she moves away with her family.

Henry never acknowledges it.

Years later Rachel is moving back to the city and, unbelievably, picking up a job at Howling Books. But nothing is the same as when she left because her brother Cal drowned months ago. She knows she isn’t the girl she was before–failing Year 12 and abandoning her dream of becoming a marine biologist prove that well enough. But she isn’t sure how she can be anything else when her brother is gone.

All Henry knows is that his best friend is back and, he hopes, willing to pick up their friendship where they left off. Henry could use a friend right now. He is perfectly content working in the family bookshop, hunting for secondhand books to buy and living upstairs with his father and his younger sister George. Henry’s comfortable world is shattered when his girlfriend dumps him and his parents start arguing about selling the bookshop. With everything changing, Henry’s perfect if unambitious future is threatened.

Howling Books is filled with memories in used books, love letters, and messages exchanged through the shop’s Letter Library. As she rediscovers the bookstore and the boy she left behind, Rachel realizes that is is possible to breathe and keep going even when everything feels broken. She and Henry both begin to understand that second chances can be as beautiful as new beginnings in Words in Deep Blue (2017) by Cath Crowley.

Find it on Bookshop.

Crowley explores familiar themes of grief and reclaiming what was lost. Words in Deep Blue alternates between Rachel and Henry’s first person narrations. The lighthearted banter and romance of this story belie the deep melancholy and sadness that has settled over Rachel like a shroud after her brother’s death. Rachel’s pragmatic and introspective tone contrasts well with Henry’s more boisterous narration filled with references to books and poetry.

Rachel and Henry’s fragile relationship mends itself in front of the backdrop of the bookstore and its own uncertain fate. As Rachel works to catalog the notes and memories in the shop’s Letter Library other stories unfold and reveal secrets about longtime customers, Henry’s sister George, and even Rachel’s brother. These threads come together by the end of Words in Deep Blue in a neat but ultimately bittersweet conclusion as Rachel and Henry realize that some losses cannot be avoided.

The scope of the plot leaves little room in this slim novel for fully realized characters but the sketches readers do receive are more than enough to make this story crackle with potential. The evocative setting, particularly the world within Howling Books, adds another dimension to this story. Words in Deep Blue is a thoughtful story about healing and reunions as well as memory and salvaging that which is lost–whether it’s a beloved person or a cherished place. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett, What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum, Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills, Flannery by Lisa Moore, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, Recommended For You by Laura Silverman, This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura, Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

Graffiti Moon: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Graffiti Moon by Cath CrowleyLucy has been chasing Shadow for years. An elusive graffiti artist, he’s left his mark all across the city and all across Lucy’s life. She knows Shadow is someone she could fall for. Hard. She knows, finally, she is close to finding him.

At the end of Senior Year Lucy’s friends Jazz and Daisy want an adventure. Lucy doesn’t. She wants to find Shadow and tell him how she feels. She doesn’t want to spend the night with Ed–not after she has finally escaped the gossip and rumors surrounding their first and last disastrous date two years ago.

But when the adventure Jazz wants turns into what Lucy wants, she knows she has to go along. Even if Ed is the person who might finally bring her to Shadow.

Ed thought his life was finally coming together after he left school. Instead it’s all falling apart. No job. No girl. And definitely no prospects. Haunted by all of the places he isn’t going, Ed leaves his mark across the city walls as Shadow saying with pictures what no one seems to hear in his words. Doesn’t matter anyway. His best friend Leo is the perfect Poet to his Shadow.

Too bad Leo is better with words than with life choices. Instead of a night spent working on another wall, Ed is drawn into Leo’s horrible plan to hang out with girls from school before making yet another terrible decision that could get them both in big trouble.

The prospect of spending a night with the girl who broke his nose is bad enough. When Leo offers to help that girl find Shadow and Poet, he knows it’s going to be trouble. But he goes along anyway.

As Ed walks Lucy through Shadow’s art, the night that promised to be a disaster turns into something else. In a city filled with missed connections and opportunity, Ed and Lucy are right where they’re supposed to be in Graffiti Moon (2012) by Cath Crowley.

Find it on Bookshop.

Set over the course of one night, Crowley takes readers on a journey through Shadow’s art and also through each character’s background. At 257 pages, Graffiti Moon is a deceptively short book. Its length belies the broad range of things Crowley packs into this one marvelous novel.

Crowley uses a dual narrative structure to great effect here (as she did previously in A Little Wanting Song). Chapters alternate between Lucy and Ed’s narrations. Poets from Leo are also scattered throughout. With voices all their own, Lucy and Ed’s narratives sometimes overlap to show both of their interpretations of events and each other.

Filled with art, poetry, and humor Graffiti Moon is an evocative story filled with beautiful writing and characters that are achingly real. Immediately inspiring and refreshingly hopeful, Graffiti Moon is completely engrossing and a brilliant reminder that everyone has time to become exactly who they’re meant to be.

Possible Pairings: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, When It Happens by Susane Colasanti, Paper Towns by John Green, Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, Damaged by Amy Reed, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Exclusive Bonus Content: In addition to loving this book, I loved all of the art it mentions and I loved hunting it down to see what all of the characters were really talking about. If you don’t feel like doing that, you can find what I believe is a comprehensive list of all of the art mentioned below. Click “more” to see it in no particular order. Continue reading Graffiti Moon: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

You can quote me on that: In which I am quoted on a book

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley was one of my favorite books from 2010.

It’s also a special part of 2011 for me as I’m quoted in the paperback edition. More specifically, my original review of the book (found here and on my NYPL blog) is quoted on the “praise for” page of the new paperback edition.

More information about the edition (and my quote) can be found on my website if you want all the details.

Here’s a picture of the full page:


And a close-up of my quote:

Suffice to say, I’m very excited!

A Little Wanting Song: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Little Wanting Song by Cath CrowleyCharlie Duskin lives and breathes music. At least, she does when she’s alone or taking lessons. She’ll talk music with people, but playing guitar or singing in front of them is impossible except for her mom or Gran even though she is not entirely without talent. Charlie doesn’t mind so much because music can be enough most of the time–especially during a summer in the country surrounded by old ghosts and locals who want nothing to do with her.

But Charlie also wants more. She wants a friend. She wants someone, maybe Dave Robbie, to look at her the way Luke looks at Rose Butler. She wants her dad to notice her. She wants to show everyone she’s not entirely unspectacular. Especially Rose Butler.

Rose lives next door to Charlie’s grandfather. She watches cars drive through town on the freeway and tries to keep her reckless boyfriend out of trouble. She’s mad about science. And she wants out of her nowhere town so much that it hurts.

After winning a scholarship to a school in the city, Rose might finally have her way out. If she can convince her parents to let her go. If she can convince her parents she has a responsible friend to stay with in the city. If she can befriend Charlie Duskin and convince her to take her back to the city. It’s brutal, but brutal’s what it is.

Charlie and Rose have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for in A Little Wanting Song (2010*) by Cath Crowley.

Find it on Bookshop.

This book was so amazing.

Told in alternating voices, Crowley has created two strikingly unique narrators with completely individual voices and a stunning story with humor and wit. As Charlie and Rose tell the story of  their summer the narratives overlap and intertwine coming together to create a story about friendship and longing and ultimately about optimism as they both realize the world is theirs for the taking.

Written with a lyrical style and interspersed with lyrics from Charlie’s songs, A Little Wanting Song is a fast read but its prose and story will linger with readers for much longer. Truly, this book will not disappoint. Highly recommended.

*2010 is the date of the first publication of this book in the United  States. This book was originally published in 2005 in Australia under the title Chasing Charlie Duskin. I haven’t seen the Australian book but from the cover images and the actual text I’m comfortable saying this is one of those moments where the American repackaging was really spot on. The book’s American cover and design capture the essence of the book in a way book design usually doesn’t. The title, I think, is also much more appropriate for all of the characters and the story itself. The original title works, but A Little Wanting Song fits.

Possible Pairings: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, , King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Reuinted by Hilary Weisman Graham, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, After the Kiss by Terra McVoy, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, Love, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Harmonium by Vanessa Carlton, Wreck of the Day by Anna Nalick

Exclusive Bonus Content: I know I’ve been harping on book design a lot lately but this one also has a really cool design. The cover has flowers and scroll work as well as paint splatters. Inside the book the narration is split between Charlie and Rose. Charlie’s segments (and her songs) are denoted with the the flowers and scroll work while Rose’s have the paint splatters. The spine also has the scrolls and flowers when you remove the dust jacket. Anyway it’s all really well put together.