Tag Archives: YA book

The Underwater Window

The Underwater Window: A Novel by Dan Stephenson (Watermark, $13.99, 362 pages)

“Glory days, well they’ll pass you by/ Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye.”   Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days” from Born in the USA (1984)

The Underwater Window is the tale of a swimmer’s quest for Olympic glory.   Doyle is an elite athlete by most standards but marginal by Olympic performance standards.   As a team leader, he must harness the U.S. swimming team’s energy and babysit the American star, Archie, throughout the Olympic trials and, eventually, in France during the Olympics.

The dichotomy between the two males makes for interesting reading.   Archie is the naturally gifted, occasionally undisciplined star.   Doyle is the always-dependable rock, a guy who must milk every single ounce of talent out of his body in order to compete with the elite athletes.

Like all athletes, Doyle faces the inevitable.   He must come to grips with the eventual end of a career.   As a medical school candidate, he deliberates between enrolling in medical school or continuing to pursue his Olympic dream.   Author Dan Stephenson handles this dilemma satisfactorily, but as this is the seminal moment for any athlete, he might have done well to dig a little deeper.

Throughout the story, Doyle also contemplates his relationship with his longtime quasi girlfriend Molly, a cerebral sort with selective attractiveness, versus the temptation offered by his bombshell swimming team partner, Camille Cognac.   The passages involving Molly flow naturally, but the scenes involving Camille come across as a bit forced.

The introduction to each chapter is a snippet on reflections about the main character’s thoughts regarding his relationship to the sport of swimming.   Usually, these vignettes bear some connection to the forthcoming events.   Some work better than others.   They don’t detract from the story, but some add more value than others.

In the end, Doyle does qualify for the Olympics.   For him to win a gold medal would unrealistically taint and discredit the integrity of the novel.   However, the ending satisfies.   Overall, this book is a good one for general audiences, not just for swimming fanatics.   There’s a little something here for everybody, and the story clearly has more positives than negatives.

Recommended. 

Dave Moyer

A review copy was received from a publicist.   The Underwater Window is also available as a Kindle Edition or Nook Book download.  

Dave Moyer is a public school educator, and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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What the World Needs Now is Love

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Harper, a division of HarperCollins; $17.99; 448 pages)

When we meet Lena, her final year of high school is ending and she has one last summer to spend with her best friend Hana before the demands of adulthood claim her.   Like many almost-eighteen-year-olds, she sees cracks forming in her bond with Hana, and they worsen when she discovers that Hana has been listening to forbidden music and breaking curfew to sneak out to illegal dance parties.

Unlike many almost-eighteen-year-olds, Lena does not feel the need to have a last hurrah.   In fact, she is counting down the days until she can embrace the life that the government will plan for her, right down to selecting the boy she will marry.   Why?   Because when she turns eighteen, she will undergo the cure for the affliction that took the life of her mother: amor deliria nervosa – in a word, love.   And she can barely wait.

In the dystopian world of Portland, Maine, of the not-too-distant future, the government has determined that love is the root of all evil, and the remedy it has devised not only prevents its occurrence but also erases the memory of the fevered, distracting, roller-coaster emotions that plague those afflicted in their teen years.   Lena, short for Magdalena, as in Mary Magdalene, is anxious to prove to the couple that raised her – and to Portland, in general – that she is not like her mother.

But, of course, then she meets Alex, and she realizes that she’s wrong.   “If pneumonia felt this good,” she says, “I’d stand out in the snow in winter with bare feet and no coat on, or march into the hospital and kiss pneumonia patients.”

Delirium is a bit slow to get rolling, but readers who hang with Lena through her first “evaluation” for her “pairing” will be rewarded with a love story reminiscent, in some ways of Romeo and Juliet, as well as an exploration of other forms of love, and a nail-biting chase scene at its climax.

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver – whose debut novel, Before I Fall, was a New York Times bestseller – is the first book in a trilogy.   So Shakespeare can rest assured that Lena will not by any other name become a Juliet.   It will be interesting to see who she does become.

Highly recommended.

Kimberly Caldwell

A review copy was received from the publisher.   Delirium was released in hardcover form on February 1, 2011.

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