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The summer after high school graduation is supposed to be one slow goodbye, filled with friends, parties, celebrations and nostalgic "one last times." But instead of embracing her high school friendships, Clara is hightailing it to the Washington coast with her widowed father, a famous novelist, for the summer. She hasn't even told her best friend where she is staying.

Clara has a really good reason for her reclusiveness. She's still reeling from a romantic relationship that quickly turned controlling, then creepy, and then downright dangerous, as her charming, handsome boyfriend Christian's devotion morphed into obsession. "It's strange, isn't it," Clara reflects as she remembers the evolution of her relationship with Christian, "how that idea of belonging to someone can sound so great? It can be comforting, the way it makes things decided. We like the thought of being held, until it's too tight. We like that certainty, until it means there is no way out. And we like being his, until we realize we're not ours anymore."

Bishop Rock, the coastal town where Clara and her dad have rented a house, is filled with geographic features with evocative names: Deception Pass, Possession Point. It's also inhabited by ghosts, if local legends are to be believed. Clara is wary; after all, she feels like her whole life lately is focused on overcoming demons from her own past. But she also recognizes that living in Bishop Rock might be the best way for her, and even her dad, to make some real-life, present-day, healthier connections. Clara is drawn to Finn, who, with his brother, runs sailing tours of the area. And her father seems positively enchanted by the prickly but beautiful lighthouse keeper who gives her a summer job.

Even as Clara's life seems to be moving forward, her mind keeps casting back. In roughly alternating chapters told through flashbacks, she replays her history with Christian --- a history that, readers will realize with a mounting sense of dread, is not quite over yet.

Deb Caletti's metaphors and symbolism, while complex and compelling, can also seem a bit heavy-handed (Finn's boat is named the Obsession…), and the conclusion seems to spread a layer of melodrama onto a narrative that is plenty dramatic in its own right. That being said, Clara's journey from fear and self-loathing into something resembling hope and confidence is a rewarding one, and her relationship with her father is authentic --- conflicted and complicated, yet comfortable and sustaining.

In the end, readers may find themselves, like Clara, reflecting on the thin line that separates genuine, mutual love from obsession: "Lightness, darkness, it can swing between extremes at lightning speed --- a boat upon the water on the most gorgeous day, and then the clouds crawl in and the sky turns black and the sea rages and the boat is lost." Readers will root for Clara to build a seaworthy vessel on which she can travel to a happier, safer future.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 5, 2011

by Deb Caletti

  • Publication Date: March 20, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 12+
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • ISBN-10: 1442403748
  • ISBN-13: 9781442403741