The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
Welcome to The Tattooed Book. Today I ‘m reviewing The Starboard Sea, Amber Dermont’s debut novel, published by Corsair.
We meet Jason at a turning point in his teenage life, he’s changing schools to live with other rich delinquents who refuse to live by the normal rules and even his lifelong passion for sailing is diminishing. All because of his best friend Cal and the way Jason found him, hanging lifeless in their dorm room, far beyond saving. Filled with grief and guilt Jason is forced to move on and slowly starts to make friends with the jocks around him. After a sailing accident that could have easily proved fatal for one of his friends, Jason steps away from his love of the water completely and fear the boys have turned against him. How could he expect their friendship and respect, when he almost killed one of them?
One afternoon, as he walks along the shore, he spots a girl leaning into the brutal winds and is convinced she is about to be trapped and be drowned by an incoming tide. As he shouts to her and wades out to save her, the red-haired girl skips back across the hidden stones and runs away. He is smitten.
Her name is Aiden, not the classic rich, pouty and privileged beauty that frequents the school he attends. She’s the outcast, the boyish-looking wild child, a sad soul, old before her time
and the star of numerous rumours. Unperturbed by teenage whisperings, Jason befriends Aiden and although he’s unsure of his real feelings towards her, the loneliness that came on after Cal’s death starts to lift.
Just as Jason starts to feel like he’s truly found a friend and maybe even more, a terrific storm tears their school and surrounding coastline to pieces. After the skies have cleared, he heads to the beach to try and find Aiden but instead of finding her gazing into the ocean, he finds her body on the sand. No matter what anyone says, he knows it isn’t suicide and when he discovers she attended one of his friend’s parties the night of her death, he knows there’s more to the story. He has to find out more so he can lay Aiden to rest and atone for the ultimate sin he committed towards his best friend Cal.
What starts as a decedent coming of age story, takes such a dramatically dark twist at the end, it left me utterly shocked. As I read through the passages where Aiden and Jason start to grow close, I completely mistook this novel for a basic ‘first true love’ style of story and I am happy to say that I couldn’t have underestimated The Starboard Sea more. Jason’s confusion over his sexuality is an ongoing theme throughout the novel and Dermont handles it with great care, adding glimpses into the other characters sexual confusion to emphasise that Jason’s feeling of being alone is unjust but a coping strategy they all employ. There also lies a terrifying tale of rich children becoming adults with no idea of responsibility with parents that pay for their mistakes to be swept under the carpet. This really is a heartbreaking story of a young man’s search for belonging, truth and forgiveness. Deeply moving, shocking and endearing, this novel is going to stay with me for a very long time.
Buy The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont