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There are few things harder in life than moving on from tragedy. There's the time spent wondering how life can ever be normal again and dwelling on how it once was. But no time is ever wasted; it's all a part of that final goal: healing. But being trapped in those moments --- living in that seemingly hopeless time --- can be a potent and unforgettable experience for all those involved, as demonstrated in WAVES, the remarkable debut novel from Sharon Dogar.

WAVES tells the story of the Dittons, a family in England struggling to come to terms with the events of a tragic accident that took place one summer at their beach house. Sixteen-year-old Charley, the oldest daughter, was left in a coma following what was believed to be a surfing mishap. The book starts with the family preparing to go back to the beach house for the first time since Charley's accident. The narrative shifts from its primary protagonist --- Hal, Charley's 14-year-old brother --- who feigns indifference at Charley's situation when he really, desperately wants his sister back, and Charley, trapped in a body that no longer responds to her commands.

Both teens sojourn back and forth in time, their present day minds touching one another on occasion, leaving Hal convinced that someone witnessed Charley's accident --- someone who could have helped her but didn't. Both Hal and Charley search their memories for answers, but at the same time seem incapable of transcending the unfolding events of the present.

Complicating matters for Hal is Jack, a girl his age whose family also owns a beach house nearby. Hal gets his first taste of romance with Jack, which distracts him from his quest to learn the truth about what happened to Charley. To make matters worse, Jack is the sister of Pete, the "surfing god" Charley was hanging around before the accident --- making him a prime suspect, in Hal's mind. The mystery slowly unfolds, and Hal, with "help" from Charley, moves closer to understanding what happened that fateful night.

Dogar's masterful use of language makes this a truly beautiful book, painfully realistic in its depiction of loss as felt by each member of the Ditton clan and mesmerizing in its suspenseful energy. There is something very real in how Hal teases his unconscious sister, hoping that something familiar will somehow prompt her to awaken. As Hal's and Charley's minds intersect throughout the book, you're drawn into an investigation neither immediately understands is happening. Brother and sister possess a recognizable vulnerability in how they interact, both in flashback when they are together and in the nebulous subconscious level in which they currently communicate. Readers will enjoy the rich characters and the skill with which Dogar allows her mystery to blossom.

WAVES will have you hooked from the first page and keep you guessing until the very last. Every year sees hundreds of debut young adult novelists, but in 2007 few will be able to pull off such a stunning coup as Dogar has done here.

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on April 1, 2007

by Sharon Dogar

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: The Chicken House
  • ISBN-10: 0439871808
  • ISBN-13: 9780439871808