Gosh do I love it when books cater directly to me. I’m such a sucker. Anything about books, mail, anything papery, well, you know that’s my jam. So when I heard about new YA novels Words in Deep Blue and Everything All At Once, I was like ummm give them to me now. And I was not disappointed! Here are short reviews of the two books, and by the end of the post, if you are like me, you’re going to race to go get your own copies.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Get this: so a boy and his family own a bookstore, and in it, they have this little section called the Letter Library, where people leave notes to one another stuck between the pages of special books. *makes an exaggerated swoon expression* It’s so freakin’ romantic. Like does such a thing exist in real life? Because I want to go to there.
Anyhoo – years ago, this girl (Rachel) left a note to that boy (Henry) in a book she knew he’d pick up, confessing her love for him before she moved away. That note asked him to call her, but guess what, he never did. (The why includes a jealous girlfriend.) Fast forward to the present — the pair who were once bffs now haven’t spoken in years, both feeling burned by the other for an epic miscommunication. But Rachel is on her way back to town to live with her aunt after her brother tragically drowned, leaving Rachel in a deep depression. Guess where she gets a job. Now the two have to find their way back to each other.
Cath Crowley did a wonderful job with this story – her writing that alternates between Henry and Rachel is beautifully poetic, really painting out the sadness and potentials for her characters in a gorgeous light. My only complaint is that the book is pretty slim – this was the kind of book I didn’t want to end. I felt so much for Rachel, and rooted for Henry – as well as Henry’s sister George and the other bookstore employee who likes her, Martin. I enjoyed their company. George has her own heartbreaking story that is just as much a part of the book as Rachel and Henry’s. I’m seriously sad I’m done reading it for the first time, and plan to re-read it sometime.
Henry gets all the great quotes, because he’s more in touch with his passion, whereas Rachel’s nice quotes are more melancholy and dreamy, when she talks about her brother. Here is one of my favourite Henry quotes.
Words matter, in fact. They’re not pointless, as you’ve suggested. If they were pointless, then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history. If they were just words, we wouldn’t write songs or listen to them. We wouldn’t beg to be read to as kids. If they were just words, then stories wouldn’t have been around since before we could write. We wouldn’t have learned to write. If they were just words, people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them and stop aching because of them.
*swooooon* Cath, I see what you’ve done, playing into bookworm weak spots, and I am A-OK with it.
Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno
After reading Lost & Found last summer, I was eager to read another wistful story by Katrina Leno, who must be a big fan of letters, because the theme was in that book and this one, too. In Everything All at Once, a girl named Lottie is grieving her aunt Helen, who was a bestselling author of a children’s book series (basically J.K. Rowling) who died too young from cancer. Lottie finds out that Helen left a stack of letters for Lottie to read after she passes away, which end up being prompts for Lottie to challenge herself and her anxiety.
I really enjoyed this read – it was perfect for a bookworm letter writer in the summer. Lottie was sweet and relatable, and I was always curious where she would end up next. I would pack my bag and jump right in there with her if I could. Her experiencing new things was laced with melancholy, but you could see the love that Helen put into her letters – she knew Lottie so well, she could predict when Lottie would read her letters.
Of course there’s a love interest, the mysterious Sam, the best friend, Em, and the brother, Abe, who accompany Lottie on her adventures, because doing them all alone would be much too lonely, and the group of them had a lovely relaxed dynamic of teens in the summer even though they were harbouring secrets, frustrations, and their own stories.
I appreciated the focus on Lottie’s anxiety, and how it was triggered by her grief, though it wasn’t an overwhelming detail to the story. There were great descriptions, like:
“How are you doing lately?”
Good. Fine. Terrible. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night, convinced the normal darkness of my room was a coffin. Sometimes I read the obituaries in the morning paper and googled things like most unusual deaths. I’d come across a Rilo Kiley song that way, something upbeat and positive but really dark and uncomfortable, and I’d listened to it twelve times in a row one night, falling asleep with the words still crawling across my ceiling.
I know I had a really good time reading this book and it left me with a sweet wave goodbye. Katrina even interspersed the story with (fake) pages from Helen’s series (like how Rainbow Rowell did in Fangirl), and with what I’m sensing as another theme, there’s just a touch of magical realism to keep you on your toes. I loved how an aunt could leave her niece letters, that that was a way for them to communicate, even after she was gone. That definitely wouldn’t give the same effect if you got emails from your aunt after she died!
I want all my bookish/paper-loving friends to read these books, it just felt so special to be let inside these stories.
Advance reading copies were provided to me by Chapters Indigo and HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review, this did not affect my opinion whatsoever, and yes I did buy them after because heck yes I wanted to support the authors and have these beauties on my shelf.