Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Published August 30, 2016 by PanMacmillan
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: This is a love story.
It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets, to words.
It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal. She's looking for the future in the books people love, and the words that they leave behind.
Words in Deep Blue is the long-awaited new release by Cath Crowley. I know for some readers and book bloggers it's a book we've been looking forward to for years and it is definitely worth the wait. I've read it twice already and I know it's a book I will reread again and again.
The story begins with eighteen year old Rachel Sweetie who left the fictional Melbourne suburb of Gracetown three years ago along with her mother and younger brother, Cal. They moved to Sea Ridge and almost a year ago Cal drowned. This changed Rachel's life completely, she failed year 12, distanced herself from friends and her boyfriend, and now she's moving back to the city to stay with her aunt.
Henry Jones, Rachel's former best friend, still lives and works at his family's bookshop, Howling Books. He has no idea of Cal's death because Rachel stopped writing to him soon after she left and he's never been able to figure out why. He's been dating Amy on and off for years but now she's finally broken up with him for good.
Crowley has created two wonderful main characters and each get to tell their side of the story via alternating chapters. Rachel's grief was palpable, she's depressed and can't see the point in life now that Cal is gone. Rachel used to love science and facts, she knew what she wanted to do with her life, but with Cal out of the picture, she's lost.
Henry is ever the optimist, but this personality trait is being tested by his mother's wish to sell the bookshop. In their family they all get a vote on decisions and he knows his younger sister George will side with him, so ultimately his vote will decide their fate. He feels like he has to choose between his parents and the decision weighs on him. He's also always known that Amy will come back after they break up, but this time it feels more final, though he can't help but hope. His optimism was so adorable and realistic because he's such a romantic.
Not only was it a pleasure to read about Rachel and Henry and to see them rekindle their friendship, but the secondary characters were just as lovable, especially George, Cal, Martin, and Lola.
Howling Books was a beautiful setting for the story, a store run by a family of book lovers, selling second hand books and containing a section called the Letter Library, where people can write in the books or leave letters in them. I can't help but wish that this shop really existed and I've read that a bookshop has now started their own Letter Library which is fantastic! Crowley's love of authors, books, quotes, and words was so evident throughout the story, I made note after note of the pages where authors or books were mentioned and it was lovely to see so many AussieYA authors/books, as well as a shout out to Beachside Bookshop.
This was a really emotional book, from Rachel's grief over Cal, to Henry's insecurities, to George's fear. I felt so much while reading this, at certain points I had to stop so that I wouldn't cry in public or so I could savour a particularly sweet moment. The inclusion of some of the letters from the Letter Library was a beautiful touch, each showing a different story or point of view, from the past and the present.
Words in Deep Blue is indeed a love story. It's a story about all the sorts of love you can experience: love for family, friends, partners, your livelihood, your hobbies, your city. It's a book for readers, writers, and book lovers. I have no doubt this will be a favourite of many readers to come.
Thank you to PanMacmillan for my review copy.