It is important for younger readers to read books written by people from their own country. As a person who reads a significant volume of young adult fiction set in other countries, I found it both refreshing and very satisfying to read a young adult novel set in Australia. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley is a beautifully written story focusing on the complexity of relationships and theconsequences of words and actions.
The story itself is told from two perspectives, Rachel Sweetie, a girl dealing with the death of her brother and returning to her old home, and Henry Jones, Rachel’s ex-best friend who is focusing on life after school. Henry’s family owns a bookshop, and in that bookshop is the Letter Library, a place where strangers can leave notes and underline passages in their favourite books. This is often used as a mode of communication between characters throughout the story. This setting is particularly entrancing and will appeal to the nostalgia of those who have fond memories of a favourite second-hand bookshop, where they can recall whiling away the hours, thumbing through the yellowing pages, as they are transported to other worlds.
Although the plot may be fairly simplistic, the book navigates the delicate and complicated themes of friendship, love, forgiveness and grief, with the utmost sophistication. Rachel’s reaction to her brother’s death and how she deals with those memories as she returns to her hometown, now a place of loss and hurt, is realistic and heartbreaking. Henry’s growth and development, however, is the greatest character arc in the story, as he transforms from a person engulfed with bitterness and regret, to someone who is able to understand the consequences of his words and knows what to prioritise in his life.
Words in Deep Blue is a homage to book lovers and is a compelling and genuine story, which leads the reader to reflect on the importance of friendship and family. It is certain to make you wish for your very own Letter Library, a place where letters are left carefully between the pages of well-loved hardbacks capturing a moment in time to be preserved indefinitely. And, I will warn you now, the ending is somehow heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time.