engaging, beautiful, and profound
THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA is a beautiful coming-of-age story. After her brother attempts suicide, he is sent to an in-patient treatment in Vermont and Violet is sent to Lyric, Maine, a town founded by their ancestors where her uncle owns a bakery and where she spent summer vacations growing up. Violet has decided that she needs big changes- she is determined to cast-off her party girl ways and disappear, shaving off all her hair and wearing bland clothes.
Rejected, worried for her brother, and uncertain of whom she wants to be, Violet begins a journey into herself and her family. Meeting friends who have theories about the founding of the town- by her ancestors, Violet finds new purpose. She and her brother had always been interested in the shipwreck that spurred their great-great-great-grandmother to dress as a boy, meet a man, settle in Lyric, and have three children. The ship has never been found. With new leads, Violet may just be the person to find it, for her brother- and for herself.
What I loved: Violet really comes into her own in this book, addressing the major turning points in her life that have led her to this point. Her family has been broken, and so has she. Her partying ways were covering up deeper issues, which she must begin to realize and confront. Her family also needs to time to heal individually and as a unit. While Violet begins to uncover who she is and the things about her (and her ancestors), she also discovers new romance in an absolutely beautiful way.
The characters are so flawed and so well-constructed that they come to life throughout the book. Violet is hurting at the start, and as she digs deeper into herself and her family, she begins to heal (though of course, that is not a quick nor easy process/not finished in the length of the story). The portrayal of mental illness was really strong in the book. The only thing I would change is to have had more about Violet following treatment, to be able to see more of that process (therapy, medications if needed, etc.).
The secondary characters are also so amazingly well portrayed, especially Liv, who lost her brother in an accident years before and whose family has struggled as a result. It is difficult not to fall in love with the whole cast here- Violet, her uncle, Liv, Orion… they are all just so amazing. I also super-adored the LGBT representation in the story and how Violet’s sexuality is portrayed and revealed throughout. This book is just really, all-around fantastic.
Final verdict: With beautiful characters, lyrical prose, and a lovely romance, THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA is a profound contemporary YA book that handles mental illness and coming-of-age with aplomb. I highly recommend for anyone who desires an engaging and sagacious read. This book is simply wonderful.