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Monday, June 12, 2017

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley | Review

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Contemporary, 288 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published in Australia, August 30th 2016)

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

I don't know what has taken me so long to read more by Cath Crowley. Way back when, shortly after I first started blogging, I reviewed Crowley's A Little Wanting Song, making it among the very first review books ever sent to me, what?! Even more shocking is that I requested it. ME, request a contemporary book. I know, shocking.

Even more shocking was how much I loved it. Or maybe not shocking at all, because Cath Crowley is just really, really good at what she does. So much of what I said then applies here, today, with Crowley's most recent book, Words in Deep Blue. It features that same seemingly-effortless writing (I say "seemingly" because I know it wasn't; nothing good ever is) and characters who seem real and flawed and thoroughly engaging. Her writing flows, it just pulls you along in this inviting, seamless way, so that when you only intend to sit down and read a chapter or two, you suddenly find yourself having read half the book, and realizing that you probably should have gone to bed hours ago -- but hey, you're in this deep, why stop now? But unlike a lot of unputdownable writing, it's not "potato chip writing;" it's not junk food for your brain that is just easy and throwaway and utterly garbage but so fun you just can't put it down. Crowley's writing has substance and heart and those painful gut-punches that make you wish you could put it down to just process and be less hurt for a minute, but damned if you don't just have to keep reading.

All of that said, this is told in alternating POVs -- Rachel and Henry -- and I expect some people will be very frustrated with Henry and how slow on the uptake he can be. But honestly, this quality felt very realistic to me. Not to malign teenage boys, but they're not known for being the most emotionally aware / attuned creatures on the planet, and a depiction of a boy who thinks he's in love with the pretty, vivacious, popular girl who's using him is not the most unrealistic idea, or even the most revolutionary trope -- and that's probably for a reason. I think we've all known Henrys* at some point in our lives. Hell, nearly every viewer-insert MPDG-chasing teen/20-something male lead of cutesy-but-"deepish" romance or comedy movies of the last 25 years has been a Henry on at least some level. (But this Henry is much better, realer, and far less nauseating than those Henrys.)

And honestly, even if you're not the biggest fan of teens and their romancifulness, there is so much more to this book than that.  For all the truly heartbreaking and frustratingly real elements in the book, there is such a hopeful, life-affirming thread. . .  Frankly, it was goddamn refreshing. I think I needed this book in some ways, and I think a lot of teens (and those who read books written for them) will find things they connect with and 'need' in Crowley's story, too. And though it deals with heavy things like grief and depression and family turmoil, it never feels weighted down by it. Nor does it feel too light or dismissive of these heavy things. It just feels honest. And it's worth reading for the amazingness that is the Letter Library, alone. ALL book lovers will long to go there, I would lay good Monopoly money on it.  It's going to inspire a lot of wistful reader-sighs. . .

And it once again reminded me that not all contemporary is fluffy or cheesy, Misty, nor is it all saccharine and faux-deep trauma porn; there is some really good stuff out there and you should read more of it, for the love of all things bookish.
But since I was saying essentially the same thing in my A Little Wanting Song review, well. . . I clearly don't learn too quickly, or take my own advice.

But you should! And you should read this, it's really quick, really readable, and really good.

* There was a debate on twitter about the proper way to pluralize Henry -- Henrys or Henries. Both make me borderline uncomfortable with how wrong they look, but  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  It was also discussed whether I planned to verb the name Henry as well, and I think I'm going to do so now. "To Henry" is to interact with someone in a thoroughly charming, adorably passionate, and uncommonly clueless way, utterly unaware of your own needs and desires as you somehow manage to nevertheless bumble through to the perfectly right outcome. Should you find yourself Henrying in life. . . well, don't worry, it'll all turn out for the best.

Also, I used "nor" twice in this, who even am I?

Alsooooooo, can we talk about how much I love the Australian cover?  I mean, both are gorgeous, but that paper bird tho! *swoon*

Disclosure: WORDS IN DEEP BLUE was sent to my by the awesome people at Random House for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are honest, and my own.


  1. It's on my list already. Yum!

    Glad you loved it, Misty! And yes, Aussie cover is very cool.

    1. The AUS covers of things tend to be pretty damn cool.

  2. I received a copy of this book at Teen Con (a book con in Sydney Australia!) and I've heard nothing but amazing things about it! Can't wait to dive in soon. :) Great review Misty, I actually imagined you speaking the words!

    - Cass (Words on Paper)

    1. Thanks! That's actually really great to hear, because I've been trying to make it a priority to make my content more me, to make my voice show through, ya know? Haha.
      Definitely let me know what you think when you end up reading it!

  3. I received a copy of this book at Teen Con (a book con in Sydney Australia!) and I've heard nothing but amazing things about it! Can't wait to dive in soon. :) Great review Misty, I actually imagined you speaking the words!

    - Cass (Words on Paper)

  4. Your review is a wonderful reminder to FREAKING READ MORE CATH CROWLEY, Cecelia! I really adored GRAFFITI MOON, but I've practically given up contemporary in the past couple of years. Clearly I need to make an exception.

    1. She's just SO GOOD. I own Graffiti Moon, and have already been eyeing it since finishing this. Definitely need to read it soon.

  5. Yay that it lived up to the hype! And I've encountered the same experience with contemporary (I still have a bit of a prejudice against it, but reading Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl was my wake up call there). This one was already on my list (but seriously, need the Aussie cover I think- that paperback-background font is slaying me) and now A Little Wanting Song is, too. Thanks for reviewing this!


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