Book Reviews 2015 · Magical Realism and Speculative Books · Young Adult Book Reviews

‘Waves’ by Sharon Dogar

Charley died in the waves last summer. Almost. Now she’s in a coma, neither dead nor alive.On returning to the beach, her younger brother Hal finds it hard to shake off her presence. Thoughts of Charley begin crowding his mind, revealing strange places and violent emotions—thoughts that Hal comes to realise are not entirely his own. As Hal digs deeper into the mystery of her accident, he discovers the truth of what happened.

1.5 Stars (Rounded to 1)

What a truly disappointing book. I honestly thought that this would be a good read. I’ve heard it described as the teen ‘The Lovely Bones’, and I did really like that book, so I was expecting this to be right up my alley. Turns out, it was little more than a common idea mixed with completely unnecessary and confusing telepathic connections and some really terrible characters and relationships. I definitely would not recommend this book to anyone, and it is a shame that I hated it so much, as I have been waiting to clear it from my TBR for ages, and really did want to enjoy it.

Charley was involved in an accident the previous summer, hitting her head on a rock at sea and falling into a coma. A year later, her parents, brother and sister return to the holiday home in Cornwall where her accident happened, and her younger brother Hal begins to question whether there was something else to her death. We then have the voice of comatose Charley inhabiting Hal’s mind, supposedly giving him aid as to what really happened. The first thing I have to say is that the thing that drew me to the book was the ‘Charley’s voice in Hal’s head’ aspect. I thought that it would be a really good way of establishing what happened, but it turned out that it was completely unnecessary. Every time we see Charley’s voice, she never says anything but ‘help me!’ or ‘remember!’ or ‘Hal!’ over and over and over again! If she’s not going to be of any use to the story, then why was it even an aspect? ‘Remember, Hal?’ Well, it would help if you actually gave him a clue as to what to remember, rather than just calling his name! To make it worse, whenever Hal detected her voice in his head, he had what was nothing short of a complete breakdown, zoning out (he may have collapsed at one point, I don’t know), and at one point he gravitates to the edge of a cliff, where his friend thinks he is going to jump. He could have solved the ‘mystery’ without the voice, and all that voice does it threaten to drive him absolutely crazy. There are countless scenes where Charley would call ‘Hal!’ and he would call ‘Charley!’ and so on for a couple of pages. I was rolling my eyes with despair and exasperation.

I always appreciate a good mystery, where the leaking of information is gradual and intelligent. This was a mess. Firstly, there is no leaking of clues; absolutely everything is withheld until the final section of the book. We know that there is a secret that Charley’s boyfriend and his ex are withholding, but after chapters of ‘please tell me!’ with no hints or clues whatsoever, I did not actually care by the time that it was revealed about 10 pages from the end. This was also made confusing, as scenes were not written around the missing information to create tension – it felt as if the scenes had been written with the information in, and then just taken the clues out, leaving us immensely confused, as the scene really required the missing info to make coherent sense. What makes it even worse is *SPOILER* the whole mystery is supposed to be around the circumstances of Charley’s state – we do not believe that she was in the sea and hit her head on a rock in a freak accident – but after 350 pages of wondering what really happened, we discovered that she, in fact, did hit her head in a freak accident, and that there was actually no mystery behind it whatsoever! What was the purpose of the book if there was absolutely nothing new to uncover? The answer to that seems to be romance. Urgh. *SPOILER ENDS*

The focus of this book should have been on a family’s grieving process, but instead, everything is focused on romance! Hal gets into a relationship with Jackie, and the focus on every scene about Charley’s past is her relationship with her boyfriend Pete (or rather, his previous relationship with Am). Furthermore, all three of these relationships are incredibly unhealthy. Let’s start with Hal and Jackie. Firstly, literally the first time he sees Jackie he is banging on about how beautiful she is. On their second meeting, he thinks about how he wants to spend his future with her, and they then kiss. Second meeting! This is a severe case on insta-love. What makes this worse is that earlier that day he offends her and calls her a whore for no reason whatsoever! I wouldn’t have had anything to do with him after that, but she forgives him in based on his logic that she is an information-whore, and that she inadvertently upset him by mentioning Charley. Not acceptable, yet she snogs him. This continues throughout, with Hal constantly accusing Pete, Jackie’s brother, of being responsible for Charley’s state and leaving her rather distressed. She, in return, suggests that as Hal cannot remember that night as he had something to do with it, as an elaborate way of trying to convince him that she is as certain that it wasn’t her brother as Hal is that it wasn’t himself. He is frequently emotionally harming her, and she is retaliating with nonsense and offensive statements, and yet they just laugh it off and kiss a bit. The prime example of this was when they were having a fight as Jackie lashed out at Hal in retaliation of his offensive statements, and he makes a jibe to her brother, who was wrongly accused of violence. They then proceed to have a heated exchange of ‘oh no I’m not!’ and ‘oh yes you are!’ until the line ‘we start to laugh – or are we crying?’, and then fall to the ground and lie in each other’s arms. Is this relationship really healthy? I don’t think so. Charley and Pete are quite possibly worse. He clearly doesn’t want to speak about his relationship with Am, yet literally every time Charley is with Pete, she bugs him, shouts at him and riles him for information about Am. She is relentless, and if I were Pete, I would have run a mile, yet he shouts at her a bit then kisses her and acts as if it never happens. Worse, he is over-age and she is under-age. He states that he does not want to have sex whilst she is under-age. She whines about being younger and then tries to force him to go back on his word by saying that she is worried they won’t speak again after summer. She behaves in a way which makes me want to punch her. Pete and Am are borderline insanity. She practically stalks him, desperate to get him back, despite the fact that she treated him unacceptably.

Not only are the relationships unacceptable, but the characters on their own are absolutely foul. Charley is a bratty, selfish and arrogant bitch who seems to think that the entire world gravitates around her love life. I couldn’t sympathise with her at all, especially as everything that happened to her was due to her own stupidity. Hal was unbearable. There was a lot of potential to expose how he feels less important due to his parents’ lack of attention, yet he undermines this by pushing them to breaking point and constantly upsetting them. Jackie needed to learn to control what she was saying and stop inadvertently offending people, as well as not letting Hal push her around. Pete was incredibly stupid and treats girls almost like animals (the line ‘”It’s an all girls’ school,” I tell [Pete], and watch his eyes light up in that way guys’ eyes always do’ really angered me actually), and I’m pretty sure that Am had mental health issues, behaving the way she did.

The end of the books was a complete mess. Rushed and clearly suffering from the lack of prior explanation, I could barely follow it. I ended up skimming in frustration by the end, and I really wish that I hadn’t wasted my time now.

This book is simply not good. It isn’t a compelling mystery, it isn’t a heart-wrenching insight into coping with a child in a coma. It was nothing but a hot mess of unstable relationships and a life lesson in being a despicable person. Don’t even bother with it.

Twitter – @emmathereader

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