REVIEW – SECOND STAR BY ALYSSA B. SHEINMEL

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Available: May 13, 2014 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete’s nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she’s falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up–and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

I keep wavering between 3 and 4 stars on this book. There were parts of it I really enjoyed, while others seemed rushed and not as thought out.

The story is based around recent high school graduate, Wendy. She had her life waiting just beyond the summer, with an acceptance to Stanford and the promise of a perfect life. Except, she can’t let go of her twin brothers, who went missing just before she started her senior year of high school. As surfers, her brothers lived a beach life, waking before the sun to catch the best waves, sometimes disappearing for days, and finally for good. The police write them off as dead, drowned in a swell too big for them to handle. Their boards wash up, but the boys never do. Her parents accept their deaths, moving on with their lives in a fog of disbelief, not really seeing anything anymore.

Wendy isn’t ready to let them go, and as her summer begins, she throws herself into one final search for them, which leads her to Kensington, part beach, part wasteland of what could’ve been. It’s there, amongst abandoned houses perched precariously over the ocean, that she meets Pete. He’s a surfer, and even better, he may be able to lead her to her brothers. Surely they’d surfed Kensington, with its powder perfect beach surrounded by waves. But Pete’s life isn’t just beaches and fun. As a squatter, he has to steal to eat, to survive, to care for the other life refugees he’s taken in. But Wendy can’t help herself. As she weaves her way into the surfers’ lives, she begins asking questions. Her brothers are out there. She knows it.

But Pete isn’t the only secret hiding in Kensington. On the other side of the beach lives Jas. Surfer by day, renowned drug dealer by night. And he has history with Pete.

What ensues is a complicated of exploration of what it means to live and what you must let go when you grow up.

The strongest part of this book was probably the setting. It was California rich, sand and sun and boys, I could practically smell the suntan lotion. There was a lot of symbolic reference to sand, which I liked. It seemed to me that the sand was Wendy’s memories, but by the end of the story, the sand was her future. It was a nice arc from what was to what could be.

The characters themselves were not that well depicted. It’s like the novel just scratched the surface of the whole story. While I enjoyed reading it, I never felt connected to Wendy. Though it was written in first person, I never became Wendy, she always seemed separate from her body, and at times, from the story, like she carried to much of a narrator’s voice. Pete, who was probably the best fleshed out character, still fell a little flat. Jas, who I wanted to like the most, was supposed to be the bad boy, but we only ever got one impression of him actually being “bad.” I wanted more. I wanted to truly and thoroughly hate him before Wendy made me fall in love with him.

There were lots of things I liked. There was romance, but it wasn’t overdone. There were two love interests and I liked both of them and didn’t hate Wendy for being conflicted. I loved the setting and learning more about surfing. I liked the twisting of plot. It definitely keeps you guessing until almost the very end, and then, throws you for another loop.

Overall, this was a quick, enjoyable read, I just wish there was more substance for me to sink my teeth into.

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