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Friday, August 18, 2017

Words in Deep Blue, written by Cath Crowley. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House. 2017. $23.99 ages 14 and up

"It's a relief to tell Henry, to let everything out - losing Cal, how I failed, how everything feels ruined now. It's a relief to cry and have Henry tell me this  is the correct response and to hold out his sleeve. I feel exhausted afterward. I feel almost as tired as I did in those days after we dragged Cal out of the ocean and tried to force him back to life on the beach."

There are times when I just don't want a book to end; not because I am afraid for what might happen, but because it has been such a glorious read that I just want to savor it for a while longer. And sometimes I hug those book when I do finish.

That is exactly what happened with Words in Deep Blue. It is so real! It is filled with feelings of love and loss, grief and understanding - and best of all, the importance of words, and books, and the impact reading has on our lives.

Rachel and Henry were best friends - once! But, things have changed. Rachel's family moved away from their hometown three years ago. As a final act of bravery, Rachel left a love note for Henry in the Letter Library of his family's bookstore. The Letter Library is a very unique part of the store, a place where customers are free to leave letters for others between the pages of some of the special books placed there.

"It's called the Letter Library because a lot of people write more than a note in the margin - they write whole letters and put them between the pages of books. Letters to the poets, to their thief ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend who stole their copy of High Fidelity. Mostly people write to strangers who love the same books as them - and some stranger, somewhere, writes back."

Henry did not respond.

Now, following the drowning death of her younger brother Cal, Rachel and her mother are returning to Gracetown, hoping the change of scenery might spark interest in living life once again. The only drawback is that she is sure to see Henry and open old, raw wounds.

No one in town knows that Cal has died, and Rachel is not about to open her heart and tell them. We do find out that Rachel is not the only one dealing with loss, and we learn much from each of the other characters what it means to lose something you love (or think you do). Henry's parents have divorced and don't agree that selling the bookstore is an option. Henry had just experienced a break-up. His sister George is harboring a crush on someone who has been leaving notes for her in one of the books in the Letter Library.

As Henry explains to their friend Mai Li - "Life be shit, Mai Li."

I could go on and on ... but, I will not. This is another of those books you need to read for yourself. It will tear at your heartstrings. You will journey with each impressive character along their path from despair to optimism. You will look twice at second chances. You will delight in words that are powerful and uplifting.

As Henry says,  “Sometimes science isn’t enough. Sometimes you need the poets.”

This tribute to words, and to life, is worth hugging.

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