The Starboard Sea

The Starboard Sea

by Amber Dermont

Donna Newman (04/01/13): Amber Dermont teaches creative writing at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Her debut novel, The Starboard Sea, is beautifully written, but it does have its flaws. Think of the characters in this book as the children of the characters in Catcher in the Rye. (I just reread that book for my book group.)The book is set in a New England boarding school in the 1980's. Drinking has been supplemented by drugs of all kinds as everyone's means of recreation. Bellingham Academy is a third rate school, the last chance for many of the characters, yet the attendees manage to get into Princeton due to their legacy status there. There is a love story of sorts, and dysfunctional families abound. The main character, Jason, is a talented sailor, and the reader is exposed to detailed explanations of sailing terms. Jason has to come to terms with his past, a mystery of sorts that kept me engaged in the story, and makes a place for himself in the present. As someone who works with teenagers, I hope that my students are not as troubled as the attendees at Bellingham are. I would read another book by Ms. Dermont, but I did not love this book. Perhaps if I had been on a sailboat more than five times in my life, I would have found the reading a bit easier.
Rating: ***

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