Thursday, August 23, 2007

Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson

Clio’s life up to age seventeen has been anything but ordinary, but her goal this summer is to get a job in the art store she loves, working with the guy she likes, hopefully get her first kiss, and generally have a normal teenage experience in Philadephia. Just as things are falling into place, her mother announces that she is moving to Kansas for the summer with her new boyfriend to work on an art restoration project. Clio isn’t invited, which means that she’s heading to Italy to spend the summer with her father, who isn’t know for being a responsible parent. Upon arrival, Clio is whisked from the airport onto a yacht with her father, where they promptly head out to sea. On board the small boat is Julia, an archeologist and the woman he is apparently dating (although he didn’t bother to mention that earlier). Also not mentioned were her dad’s friend Martin and Julia’s daughter Elsa. And then there’s Aidan. He’s a smug college student working as a research assistant to Julia. Clio certainly didn’t plan to spend her summer trapped with five other people on a small boat on a secret exploratory mission in the Mediterranean!

As the adventure develops and Clio snoops around the boat to find out more about the secret mission, she learns more about the people onboard as well. Maureen Johnson gives us great characters, especially as they react to one another on the confined spaces of the yacht. I love the writing in this novel, from the observation of gorgeous Elsa – “this was what the person who invented cheese must have been like – a blond dairy goddess” to a comment about a run down Italian town – “Europe decayed so well.” Even on board the yacht – “The air conditioning made that gentle noise that kittens make when they sleep.”
Remember how Clio’s mom went to Kansas for the summer -- Of all of the books in the world that mention Topeka as a place that you don’t want to spend the summer, this one I can forgive because it is sweet and funny.

My one complaint – the picture on the cover of the book! Clio is described as being very artsy-punk, with long brown hair, altered thrift store t-shirts, and a brightly colored and distinctive tattoo encircling her wrist. The only thing I can figure is that they put Elsa on the cover instead of Clio to avoid scaring the readers!

I borrowed it from a friend. 323 pages


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