The Starboard Sea

 
4.3 (2)
 
4.0 (1)
2283 0
The Starboard Sea
Author(s)
Age Range
16+
Release Date
February 28, 2012
ISBN
9780312642808
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Jason Prosper grew up in the elite world of Manhattan penthouses, Maine summer estates, old-boy prep schools, and exclusive sailing clubs. A smart, athletic teenager, Jason maintains a healthy, humorous disdain for the trappings of affluence, preferring to spend afternoons sailing with Cal, his best friend and boarding-school roommate. When Cal commits suicide during their junior year at Kensington Prep, Jason is devastated by the loss and transfers to Bellingham Academy. There, he meets Aidan, a fellow student with her own troubled past. They embark on a tender, awkward, deeply emotional relationship.

When a major hurricane hits the New England coast, the destruction it causes brings with it another upheaval in Jason’s life, forcing him to make sense of a terrible secret that has been buried by the boys he considers his friends.

Set against the backdrop of the 1987 stock market collapse, The Starboard Sea is an examination of the abuses of class privilege, the mutability of sexual desire, the thrill and risk of competitive sailing, and the adult cost of teenage recklessness. It is a powerful and provocative novel about a young man finding his moral center, trying to forgive himself, and accepting the gift of love.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Completely in Awe of "The Starboard Sea"
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
When I put down Amber Dermont’s “The Starboard Sea” I knew I had just finished a book that changed my life. That sounds like such a dramatic statement, I know, but it’s really true. Dermont’s characters resonated with me so much that I’m still mulling over the lessons I’ve learned from reading her book.

“The Starboard Sea” follows Jason Prosper, a high school senior who on the outside appears to live in the lap of luxury. His parents are outrageously wealthy, and he attends an elite private school filled with other privileged children. What Jason’s outward appearances don’t detail, however, is that he has just transferred to Bellingham Academy to deal with his best friend Cal’s suicide. The matter becomes even more complicated as readers discover that Jason and Cal explored their sexuality together, and could at times be classified as lovers.

Dermont’s detail of her characters’ strengths and struggles is outstanding. She doesn’t oversimplify any single character. It’s not as if Jason is just the kid who is gay and trying to deal with it. Instead, he’s a young man who is trying to discover just what his sexuality is, trying to deal with the responsibility he feels for his best friend’s death, trying to make himself stand out in a privileged life that has been predetermined for him, and trying to find the best aspects of life at a time when it seems as if the entire world is working against him.

Even Dermont’s minor characters are as well thought out as her protagonist. For example, Jason’s mother is a woman who has not worked a single day in her life, but has so many more problems than her “Real Housewives” appearance would suggest. She is a woman dealing with her husband’s infidelity, dealing with her own feelings of love lost with another man, and dealing with her son’s depression after losing his best friend. Dermont seamlessly puts readers into the lives and minds of her characters that you can’t help but find bits and pieces of each character’s story that have some correlation with your own.

This intricate character development is all set in an endearing seaside east coast town, the perfect location for Jason to lose himself in his love of sailing. Dermont’s description of Jason’s time sailing seems almost as therapeutic as being on the open water yourself. Ultimately it is Jason’s connection to sailing and the sea that help him discover himself at this pivotal time in his life.

I’m sure after reading this review I seem just overly dramatic and potentially groveling to Dermont and her work. I have to tell you, I’m just utterly in awe of this and can’t think of any other way to review “The Starboard Sea.” My jaw is still dropped, and I’m already diving into this a second time to discover new details and connections I may have missed the first go around.
Good Points
The most intricately detailed characters I've read in a long time.
A journey of self discovery that I feel privileged to have gone on.
This book reads like a classic.
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Not the smooth sailing I was expecting.
(Updated: March 18, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
3.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
This is an intense story about one young man's search to find the best path in life after a series of heartbreaking losses leave him struggling to differentiate the thin line between friendship and love and learning how to forgive himself.

Jason Prosper, a snarky eighteen year old whose grown up in a world befitting of his last name, has a love and natural talent for sailing. He's good looking enough and he's never lacked for anything whether it be girls, friends or material things but none of those have ever mattered much to Jason. He's always felt at home, sailing the seas with his childhood friend and crew partner, Cal, but when Cal commits suicide during their junior year at Kensington Prep, Jason is devastated.

Jason can't imagine life without Cal; they were as close as brothers, people often mistaking them for such. He spends the remainder of his school year and summer splitting his time between his homes in Maine and Manhattan, tormenting himself with memories of Cal. As the school year starts, Jason finds himself beginning his senior year on the island for misfit toys, otherwise known as Bellingham Academy, a third rate boarding school for rich kids.

At Bellingham, he runs into old acquaintances but it's here that he also meets Aidan, the girl with the boy's name and the fiery red hair. Aidan not only has a tortured past of her own, but she might be exactly what Jason needs in order to find his own starboard sea.

Together they begin an emotional and touching journey of shared secrets of the past and talk of forging a new future, one of hope and healing. Then a hurricane sweeps the New England coast leaving even more destruction in Jason's young life and uncovering a heart wrenching secret in the process.

By the time graduation rolls around, Jason will have earned his education but it will have little to do with academics and more to do with learning who his real friends are, what it means to be free of oneself and who it is he really wants to be.

Jason, Cal and Aidan are all the kind of characters you just want to hug. Forever. My heart ached for all three of them more than any of the other characters and I felt like if they'd each been loved properly as kids growing up, maybe they wouldn't have been so screwed up. They each seemed to pursue people and things who represented what they were looking for in their parents but didn't get. A void to fill. Some people do that with money, some use drugs, alcohol or sex. I would've loved to bring all home with me and just loved on them.

What's with boarding schools anyway? It seems like another way for rich parents to not have to deal with their kids to me which is just sad. Nannies first and then boarding schools. It's as if the children are just another accessory, another acquisition.
Good Points
This novel is heavier than most YA's, very detailed, and the characters are well developed.
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User reviews

1 reviews

Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0  (1)
Characters 
 
4.0  (1)
Writing Style 
 
4.0  (1)
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A quiet power resides between the lines of this story
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
On the surface, The Starboard Sea is a coming of age novel that follows Jason Prosper during his first year at a new boarding school, after being asked to leave the last. However, the underlying story is much more than that. It is an exploration of the impact race, class, and sexuality had in the world of the upper-class in the Regan era. It is a story about what happens when the untouchables go too far. Mostly, it is the story of the impact the simplest acts have on the lives of those around us.

Jason is an easy character to like from the start. His struggles are relatable, and it is understandable how he has gotten to his current place in life. The story follows his life after his best friend, Cal, commits suicide, leaving Jason to pick up the pieces. It quickly becomes clear that Cal was more than just a best friend, but someone that will forever be irreplaceable in Jason’s life.

However, when Jason meets Aiden, an outcast the rest of the school has nicknamed ‘Hester’, in reference to The Scarlet Letter, it seems that he may have found someone that can fill the void Cal left. Their relationship quickly grows into something undefinable and awkward, yet necessary. Through each other, they learn more about themselves and what they have been through. They have a relationship that is all their own, and are able to share their deepest tragedies and secrets. Until one day, when it all changes.

In the aftermath of a hurricane, Jason must sort through the wreckage of his emotions and memories to figure out the truth beneath it all. We learn how far he is willing to go to protect those around him, and who can really be trusted.

There are several passages in The Starboard Sea that are a bit slow and detail driven, mostly focused on the details of sailing. For most, these are easily skipped over, but for the lover of nautical detail, these are sure to add to the enjoyment. Although these selections may slow down the pace at times, it is well-worth it to unfold the story being told.

The Starboard Sea is a lyrically written novel that is perfectly paced and the story evenly delivered. It has a lot of the same atmosphere as that of The Dead Poets Society, and touches on many of the same issues, as well. While there is no Ethan Hawke or Robin Williams, Dermont has given us characters that are real- so real there are times when they are unlikable, bringing out the dark undertone of the story being told. It is clear that we often do not, and never will, know the entire reason behind people’s motives. In the end, we are left wishing for happy endings, but realizing there rarely ever are.
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