‘The Starboard Sea’ by Amber Dermont

The Starboard Sea

by Amber Dermont

St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date:  February 28, 2012

Book received from:  Publisher


On the surface, The Starboard Sea is a coming of age novel that follows Jason Prosper during his first year at a new boarding school, after being asked to leave the last.  However, the underlying story is much more than that.  It is an exploration of the impact race, class, and sexuality had in the world of the upper-class in the Regan era.  It is a story about what happens when the untouchables go too far.  Mostly, it is the story of the impact the simplest acts have on the lives of those around us.

Jason is an easy character to like from the start.  His struggles are relatable, and it is understandable how he has gotten to his current place in life.  The story follows his life after his best friend, Cal, commits suicide, leaving Jason to pick up the pieces.  It quickly becomes clear that Cal was more than just a best friend, but someone that will forever be irreplaceable in Jason’s life.

However, when Jason meets Aiden, an outcast the rest of the school has nicknamed ‘Hester’, in reference to The Scarlet Letter, it seems that he may have found someone that can fill the void Cal left.  Their relationship quickly grows into something undefinable and awkward, yet necessary.  Through each other, they learn more about themselves and what they have been through.  They have a relationship that is all their own, and are able to share their deepest tragedies and secrets.  Until one day, when it all changes.

In the aftermath of a hurricane, Jason must sort through the wreckage of his emotions and memories to figure out the truth beneath it all.  We learn how far he is willing to go to protect those around him, and who can really be trusted.

There are several passages in The Starboard Sea that are a bit slow and detail driven, mostly focused on the details of sailing.  For most, these are easily skipped over, but for the lover of nautical detail, these are sure to add to the enjoyment.  Although these selections may slow down the pace at times, it is well-worth it to unfold the story being told.

The Starboard Sea is a lyrically written novel that is perfectly paced and the story evenly delivered.  It has a lot of the same atmosphere as that of The Dead Poets Society, and touches on many of the same issues, as well.  While there is no Ethan Hawke or Robin Williams, Dermont has given us characters that are real- so real there are times when they are unlikable, bringing out the dark undertone of the story being told.  It is clear that we often do not, and never will, know the entire reason behind people’s motives.  In the end, we are left wishing for happy endings, but realizing there rarely ever are.

For more about Amber Dermont, visit her Facebook page.

This book can be purchased at Amazon, as well as your local independent bookseller.

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