Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: Shorecliff

Summary: A winning debut novel about a 1920s New England family and the secrets revealed when they reunite over one long summer. 

Spending the summer of 1928 in a big house on the Maine coast with his 10 older cousins and a gaggle of aunts and uncles seems like a dream come true to lonely 13-year-old Richard.

But as he wanders through the bustling house, Richard witnesses scenes and conversations not meant for him and watches as the family he adores disintegrates into a tangle of lust, jealousy, and betrayal. At first only an avid spectator, Richard soon finds himself drawn into the confusion, battling with his first experience of infatuation and forced to cover for his relatives' romantic intrigues.

With jump-off-the-page characters and a captivating sense of place, SHORECLIFF examines the bonds of loyalty and rivalry that can both knit a family together and drive it apart.  -- Little, Brown & Co

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had recently finished SHORECLIFF by Ursula DeYoung and that I would be posting my review shortly! Well... here it is!

SHORECLIFF is a novel about one New England family's summer vacation during 1928 when everyone was living under one roof on the Maine Coast. The story is told by thirteen year old Richard, one of the eleven cousins who is there for the summer. Richard is an only child and the youngest cousin; and he doesn't fit quite in with the gang, so he tends to stand on the periphery of the action and take it all in.

By doing this, Richard begins to learn some very interesting secrets about the residence of the summer house; and eventually, he begins sneaking around and even eavesdropping on his relatives to get the scoop and thereby hold valuable information. However, Richard learns the hard way that his behavior might not be acceptable and can even lead to events with drastic consequences.

I am always game to read a book about families and especially dysfunctional ones so I figured that SHORECLIFF would be right up my alley. I don't know if I'd say that the family in this story is dysfunctional in the way that I usually think of that word, but there are definitely some strange (and secret) things going on in this household. Some of these actions are pretty typical for a house full of teens and adults, while some are not-so-typical and even destructive. (Of course, these were the events that I found to be much more interesting!)

Overall, I enjoyed SHORECLIFF, but I don't know if I absolutely loved it. I thought the story and the characters were interesting and I definitely appreciated Ms. DeYoung's writing style. I especially liked how the author built up the tension of the story so that the reader just knew something BIG was going to happen. However, once that "event" occurred near the end of the novel, I almost felt as if the pace of the story sped up drastically and didn't really jive with the rest of the story. Maybe it was the author's intent to show the relationships and incidences that led to the climax as the focus of the story, but I kind of wanted more specifics about the fall-out after the "event." But that could just be me...

However, despite that one issue I had with this novel, I was still really impressed with Ms. DeYoung's fiction debut. I really liked how well the author brought each and every character to life, and I especially liked her portrayal of Richard. Richard was almost like a little lost soul who just wanted to be accepted by the "big" kids, and my heart did go out to him. That is, until he started spying on his relatives! I found the changes in his character over that summer to be fascinating (kind of like a coming-of-age story), and I appreciated seeing the story through his relatively naive eyes. It was only later, when Richard was more worldly and mature, that he truly grasped the significance of what he saw that summer.

I also appreciated some of the secondary characters. Truly, almost all of the characters and their actions generated some sort of thought for me. The Hatfield women were an interesting bunch, from Loretta who was a bit of a wild one, to Caroline (Richard's mother) who was a voice of reason, to Edie who just knew that a house full of teenagers was prime for incest! And I also found Uncle Karl, the only living brother of the Hatfield family, was also pretty darn interesting -- especially as his secrets were revealed. And then the cousins.... Let's just say that there was a fair amount of rivalry, jealousy, and love between them that caused for some unique situations!

One aspect of SHORECLIFF that I appreciated was how the story showcased both the normal as well as the outrageous things that occurred during the summer. It made the story more genuine to me... if that makes sense. I loved the day-to-day activities that the cousins pursued and I found their laments of boredom to be so real! However, I will admit that it was the truly shocking activities that made this book more interesting to me. Either way, I appreciated that this novel showed how all of the events in our lives (big and small) combine to make us who we are!

I think SHORECLIFF is an ideal summer read. Recommended for fans of literary fiction, coming-of-age stories, and family dramas.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

7 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I've seen quite a few posts about this one. The time period and the location and the dysfunction definitely makes it interesting!

Laura Fabiani said...

It takes talent to write from the perspective of a teen boy to bring the story forward. The time and setting is one I would enjoy too.

Beth Hoffman said...

What is it about dysfunctional families? I love them ... lol!

bermudaonion said...

You've made me very curious about the "big" event. This sounds interesting!

Mystica said...

Love family stories so this is ideal for me. Thanks for the review.

Mystica said...

Love family stories so this is ideal for me. Thanks for the review.

Beth F said...

This is high up on my list. Hope I get around to it.