This debut novel, set on Okracoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina, captures all the intensity of islands in summertime--the sun shines brighter, music is louder, love comes faster, and each small hurt is shattering. Sixteen-year-old Eddie spends summers on Okracoke with his mother Emily, a year-round resident who works in a restaurant and spends her free time swimming. Emily has been living with John Berry, who runs the island ferry, but recently she has taken up with other men. When John Berry discovers that she's been unfaithful, violence erupts. He throws a bottle at Emily, and she attempts to throw him out of her life by having an affair with a mysterious long-haired man named Birdflower. Eddie, observing these events, tries to sort out the meaning of it all--his mother isn't like other mothers, but does he want her to be? Meanwhile, he has love--and trouble--of his own in the form of Lila, a pretty 15-year-old island girl who may be carrying his child. Steinke writes with wonderful clarity. The water imagery works well for her story and the physical descriptions of the islands--the smoky air, the coquina shells underfoot--are compelling. But there's a kind of coolness to this book that doesn't make sense with all the heat she has evoked. Her characters are passionate in a curiously detached way, whether throwing bottles or making love. And when, on their first date, Eddie and Lila have a grisly, almost unbearable experience with a wild pony, it seems to affect them only briefly--until the next tide washes in. Still, Steinke has a way with words and, while the waters may be a hit too chilly this first time out, it seems clear that she's just starting to steam.