Book Review: The Aquamarine Surfboard
Reviewed by Samantha Hui
A stellar debut that inspires hope and kindness
This novel ebbs and flows with life. While it’s about Condi Bloom’s middle school friendships and her dream of learning to surf, it also highlights the importance of redemption and finding kindness when all else fails. Blending magical realism with mystery and coming-of-age, The Aquamarine Surfboard is a captivating read for all ages.
“‘But those are grown-up problems,’ Condi stammers. ‘I’m only a girl.’
“‘Age never matters,’ Koan answers. ‘These things are about bravery and heart.’”
The town of Dipitous Beach is dripping with whispers of mystery and lore. The Beachlings are elderly women who live in the caves by the haunted Windy Hallow. The women are rumored to be witches, and Windy Hallow is rumored to house ghosts. Despite these rumors, eighth-grader Condi Bloom and her grandmother, Grand Ella, love their fanciful yet peaceful home.
But their peace has become more and more disrupted. The rich residents are turning Dipitous Beach into a tourist town, and this transition is separating people by wealth. The rich kids get the surfboards; the other kids, like Condi, just dream of one day being able to afford one.
“Exotic fish glow neon, grotesquely glorious creatures flicker electrical, opaque shadows slip into caves, then out again—plant, sea animal—or something yet unknown?”
When Condi meets a mysterious ninth-grader named Trustin, the story quickly transitions from being a realistic fiction story about a young girl’s fight to save her town from commercialization to becoming a magical story with Shadow Voices, protective sea lilies, and a giant squid who comforts the dying.
Trustin drags Condi down into the sea and introduces her to the Master of the Sea, Koan, who tasks Condi with saving the town and making peace between its people again. Armed with only her bravery and snippets of memories from her underwater interactions, Condi resurfaces with the determination to stand up for those who are attacked.
“Remembering is the most important thing, though it’s the hardest thing of all.”
The middle grade novel tackles serious topics such as abuse, grief, and redemption with such great subtlety. The undersea world that Condi enters resembles something similar to purgatory, housing the energy of all those who die.
What I enjoyed most about the book’s handling of grief is that it speaks more to the actions of the living than the loss of the dead: the positive energies that people produce in life are re-dispersed back into the world in their deaths; the negative energies that were produced can still be redeemed. Condi learns to be nonjudgmental and is encouraged to “listen to what’s not said.”
“’The good and the evil we do in our lives continues to exist after we die,’ he explains softly. ‘It’s all energy, you see-and energy never dies.’”
The Aquamarine Surfboard is fun, heartfelt, and appropriately serious. It is a deep introspective on what it means to live a good life and surf the wave, always in flux rather than a thing to be controlled. This book will have you laughing out loud and crying softly into its pages, craving for shoulders to lean on like the characters have in each other.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Middle Grade / Magical Realism / Mystery
Print Length: 290 pages
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