Clementine Williams, 16, heartbroken and guilt-ridden, could use some personal space to figure things out, but confined with her family on a 42-foot sailboat for a summer-long trip down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers on the Great Loop route, privacy is in short supply.
Estranged from her lifelong best friend Amanda and confused by her forbidden, now-severed relationship with Ethan, Clem withdraws from family activities, curling up in her tiny cabin with iPod and journal. Her worried, loving parents and little sister, Olive, fail to draw Clem out of her self-imposed isolation, though the peaceful, scenic river life soothes her. But it’s James, 17, the tall, red-headed artist on a parallel trip with his dad, who gives her the new perspective she needs to begin healing. Interspersed with this account, the events leading to Clem’s present misery unfold in flashbacks. Fully realized and authentic, she behaves and responds like a genuine teen. (Ethan is the exception among a cast of believable characters: why, after pursuing Clem steadily, did he abruptly withdraw?) Walker’s compassion and emotional insight, lauded in her well-received Small Town Sinners (2011), are strengths, as is the setting. From vessels named with groan-inducing puns like Sea Ya to the challenges of shipboard sanitation, she brings the insulated boating world to life with knowledgeable affection.
A quietly absorbing journey. (Fiction. 12 & up)