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Somewhere Beyond The Sea

What happens on a cruise stays on the cruise. Unless someone disembarks in the middle of the ocean.

Somewhere Beyond The Sea

BOOK REPORT for The Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando

Cover Story: Anchors Aweigh
Drinking Buddy: What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor?
Testosterone Estrogen Level: The Love Boat
Talky Talk: (Incomprehensible 'Louie Louie' Lyrics)
Bonus Factors: Locked Room Mystery, Hitchcock
Bromance Status: Come Sail Away

Cover Story: Anchors Aweigh

I like the simplistic, 'everything's hanging by a thread' motif of this cover. Set on a cruise ship, they could have easily gone with giggling teens in swimsuits, which would have taken away from the dark mystery of the plot.

The Deal:

For Natalie's seventeenth birthday, her parents are taking her and her three best friends on a cruise! A sail-a-bration if you will. What could be more fun?

Except Natalie is not in the mood to party. It's only been a few months since her boyfriend died in a car wreck (possibly because he'd been trying to text her while driving). Natalie's just not ready to have fun.

But the first night of the cruise, she meets a guy. Sarcastic, funny, and not bad looking, Natalie agrees to a game of shuffleboard and some conversation. Maybe it is time to move on. Except, when she steps away for a moment, he vanishes. And now there's rumors on the ship that someone jumped overboard. He couldn't of...could he?

As Natalie searches the ship trying to find a boy whose name she doesn't even know, she realizes that this mystery runs deep.

Drinking Buddy: What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor?

Natalie lacked a backbone. A lot of the book consisted of her saying 'But I don't want to go rock climbing/sing karaoke/make a big deal about my birthday' and then doing it anyway. And when you're playing Nancy Drew, you don't let a witness say 'I don't want to talk about it' or 'It's none of your business,' especially when you're fearing for your safety.

Natalie's three friends were distinct, but a little excessive for a 250 page book. I think we could have eliminated two friends and one parent and made this a smoother read, without hurting the plot or greatly reducing the pool of suspects.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: The Love Boat

The idea of an onboard romance with a mysterious stranger is alluring. Except this guy isn't really a keeper. He tries to do the good-natured insult thing, but it kind of comes off as rude. When Natalie opens her heart about her dead boyfriend, he comments that the guy probably had a small penis. What every bereaved girl wants to hear, eh? And then he ghosts her. Maybe he killed himself. Maybe he's hiding. Or maybe he's just a jerk. At any rate, I don't see why she bothered looking for him so much.

Talky Talk: (Incomprehensible 'Louie Louie' Lyrics)

It could have worked. All the elements were there. The mysterious stranger. The unsettled crew. The evasive friends. The feeling of being trapped at sea.

But somehow it doesn't work. Mystery boy is kind of a jerk and Natalie is easily pushed around by her friends. When one of them deletes her only photo of the guy for no reason, she just kind of shrugs it off. And then there's the repetitive 'Stay away from Mystery Boy. He's bad news. He's going to hurt you. Wait, you want me to explain why? Geez, pushy.'

Also, the girls are all film students (see below) and Natalie constantly inserts little scripts about how she feels things are going to play out. But they have nothing to do with what's actually going on in the story, so they felt irrelevant.

Finally, the resolution to the mystery was so absurd it bordered on fantasy.

Bonus Factor: Locked Room Mystery

I have to admit, the cruise ship was the perfect locked room mystery. No one gets on or off, except without rigidly checking in and out. No cell phone service. Everyone accounted for.

So where did Mystery Guy go? There's a rumor floating around that someone jumped overboard, but everyone says it was a woman. And still, the head count works out.

Why are some many passengers behaving oddly?

And who's this new boy? Is he really Mystery Guy's twin brother? It could happen. Lots of brothers have identical tattoos. But who is 'Amelia'?

Finally, why are Natalie's friends so evasive whenever she brings up her late boyfriend?

Bonus Factor: Alfred Hitchcock

The girls are taking a film class and their teacher is a big Hitchcock fan. Natalie starts to notice parallels between her mystery and an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents where a man deliberately jumps off a cruise ship, but not to kill himself.

Bromance Status: Come Sail Away

While the premise was good, I didn't care for the characters. That, combined with my general dislike of cruise ships, leads me to tell this book Bon Voyage.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• For another aquatic mystery, try Cyn Balog's Dead River.

• For a much better mystery, read James Klise's The Art of Secrets.

• Or Holly Schindler's Feral.

FTC Full disclosure: I received neither money nor passes to the Lido Deck for writing this review.

 

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.