While I've never been at sea, I did have the good fortune to read Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson prior to its release. I immediately added it to my Best Books of 2007 list.
Are You Ready for This Jelly?
I planned to praise this book on its official release day in May 2007, but on that fateful day, I was on a plane. I came home from the airport half-asleep, then forced myself to stay awake in order to unpack. While doing so, I wrote this little ditty:
I don't think you're ready for this jelly
I don't think you're ready for this jelly
I don't think you're ready for this
You should buy the GIRL AT SEA book right now, today!
That's right. I sang something to the tune of a Destiny's Child song in order to get your attention. That's how dedicated I am to spreading the word about this book.
After singing the song of jellyfish, a pocketful of rye, I fell asleep.
A few months later, I begged Time to give me ten minutes to write a worthy review for this book. Time laughed at me. It laughed loudly. I was hurt by that laughter. Then I realized Time was simply on page 132 of the book and was reacting to this bit:
"Don't be bitter, haircut," she said, taking the book back. "It makes your eyebrows come together."
I laughed along with Time and gently led to over to my (non-existent) couch so it would be comfortable while reading the book. While it settled into the (imaginary) purple cushions, I finally wrote the promised review:
Ready Now? Read It.
Landlubbers and sea lovers alike will enjoy taking a trip with this Girl At Sea. Maureen Johnson once again successfully blends comedy and drama to create an intriguing, realistic story.
The Girl in question is Clio, who wears her heart and her scars on her sleeve. When she was eleven years old, she and her father created a board game called Dive! that took off.
A few years later, so did her father.
Fast forward five years. Now a high school junior, Clio was gearing up to work at a cool art supply store when her father contacts her. He wants her to come with him on a ten-week trip to the Mediterranean, but he won't tell her exactly where or why they're going.
Reluctantly, she goes along, only to discover they aren't alone. She must bunk with a sassy Swedish-English girl named Elsa whose mother is assisting Clio's father with his research. Her father's best friend Martin and a college boy named Aidan are also on board. As Clio's travels take her farther from home, they may or may not bring her closer to her father - and to herself.
Clio is a remarkable character. She's artsy. She's feisty. She's cool, but she doesn't know it. (That may just make her cooler.) She knows what she likes but isn't quite sure what she wants. She has a boldness about her, yet she's not really impulsive. Clio has a backbone, and even when she's vulnerable, she fights to stand on her own two feet. Her unique streak is a mile wide and she's got a knack for witty comebacks. I absolutely love her voice. Johnson's distinctive writing style really makes Clio shine.
Undeniably entertaining, Girl at Sea will not only please Maureen Johnson's loyal readers but should also be appreciated by anyone searching for a witty narrative and a memorable journey.
I used white Post-It flags to mark my favorite passages in this book. They include but are not limited to:
Her audience was enjoying her story. Her misery did at least make for good conversation. - Page 88
"It's your turn to tell a story," she said. "We're the girls. This is our room. We get to say who has to tell the stories." - Elsa to Aidan, after Clio shares a story, Page 90
It was absolute knowledge of a variety she had never encountered before. - Page 184
Being given a shiny key is a temptation. Keys open things. - Page 207
Here was another occasion today when life seriously deviated from the movies. - Page 293
When I interviewed the author, she described Girl at Sea as "the first YA archeological mystery-screwball comedy." I couldn't have said it better myself. (FYI: I am a huge fan of the archeological screwball comedy film Bringing Up Baby, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, George, and Nissa.)
My interview with Maureen Johnson
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