One of the authors who will be on our “Young Adult: Oh, the Drama!” panel at OC Public Libraries’ Literary Orange author festival on April 11th is Leila Howland. She is the author of Nantucket Blue and Nantucket Red, two young adult novels for older teens, as well as the soon-to-be widely released middle grade novel, The Forget-Me-Not Summer.
I just finished reading Nantucket Blue and absolutely enjoyed it! Don’t let the dreamy cover image of a loving embrace on the shore fool you. While romance is definitely key to this story, this is just one theme of an insightful realistic fiction novel.
Seventeen-year-old Cricket Thompson feels strongly that she needs to get away from her Providence, Rhode Island home for the summer. She needs an adventure. When her invitation to spend the summer on Nantucket Island with her best friend, Jules, falls through due to the sudden death of Jules’ mother, Cricket decides she will go to Nantucket on her own. She finds a job at an island inn, working alongside a friendly and frank Irish girl who helps fill the gap left by the now distant and somewhat rude Jules.
On Cricket’s days off she visits the beach, reading her mother’s teen diary – which she didn’t realize was written inside a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, Cricket’s assigned summer reading -- regarding her own time in Nantucket years ago. The diary introduces an astonished Cricket to her once daring and crazy-in-love mom. Cricket herself begins spending a lot of time with Jules’ brother Zack, surprised and delighted by their strong attraction. They keep their budding relationship a secret, however, due to the tension between the two girls. And Cricket would love nothing more than a relief of this tension and a return to her former closeness with Jules.
Cricket is a conscientious and thoughtful teen, but as happens to all of us, before the summer is over she has said and done a couple things she can’t “un-say” or undo. She has to decide how to handle these situations: just let them go and lie low, or bravely make amends and face the consequences of her actions.
Nantucket Blue is a highly readable novel which focuses on the challenges of friendship, the joy of a healthy first love and the transition into young adulthood. An important facet of this transition which the novel highlights is deciding how one will attempt to resolve interpersonal conflict and cultivate a sense of self-worth.
I’d recommend Nantucket Blue to fans of Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando’s Roomies and other teen fiction which combines a great slice-of-life story involving friendship and dating with enough depth to show us something about human nature.