A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{January 3, 2012}   Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson

Plot: Clio has had an unusual life: named for the muse of history, she made it rich at the age of 11 inventing a board game with her father and toured the world in style at 12. Only it to lose it all and watch her family apart shortly thereafter. At 17 all she wants is to have a summer job and kiss a boy for the first time. But when she gets wrangled into a boat trip off the coast of Italy with her father instead, she knows that this will be another one of his crazy schemes.

Oh. My. God. The next time I complain about a parent being crazy and not listening to me, remind me of Clio’s dad. And at the same time he’s kind of awesome and I wish he was my dad.

This was a great read and there is no way do justice to it in a blurb (but Johnson does a better job than me). The cover actually does it a diservice in my opinion: it is so perfectly ordinary. If I hadn’t known the pleasure of reading Maureen Johnson’s books, I would have glanced at it and kept walking. In fact, I think I’ve done just that more than once. Maybe if they had included Clio’s distinctive tattoo… but I’m not here to discuss the cover.

This is, as I’ve said, a really fun read. There is adventure (treasures and kidnappings and near drownings), there is romance (did I not mention the gorgeous, intelligent and aggravating boy on board?) and there is a lot of emotion. Clio’s life alone would make a fascinating story: it is just plain crazy, but Johnson makes it believable. I might laugh about a girl who invents a board game, lives like an ancient Greek and gets a tattoo drawn by a famous manga artist (and so much more) but Johnson invests these stories with so much conflicted emotion, so much meaning that it becomes more than an amusing anecdote. She also tells it remarkably well: exposition can be hard, I’ve seen it done badly, but Johnson reveals the past little by little, naturally, like a real conversation.

In closing, I think I should say something about the women. Clio, of course, is brave with a little of her dad’s craziness, a pleasure as a narrator, but she is not alone. I love that Elsa is not only gorgeous and cheerful and kind but also a friend right from the start. Finally, Marguerite, dead years before anyone in the book was born: we see her only in snippets, but she is a real pioneer, a strong, gutsy woman I would have loved to know.

A very unique read. Give it a chance, you won’t regret it.

2012 (#2)


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