Girl. Boy. Sea. by Chris Vick
GIRL. BOY. SEA.
August 2019 | Zephyr
I am delighted to be on the Blog Tour for this fantastic novel from YA writer Chris Vick. The story is as striking as the book cover and it's a mesmerising tale of shipwreck, survival and storytelling. But, before I tell you more about my thoughts, here's a guest post from Chris himself to tell you a bit more about Girl. Boy. Sea.
A Sea of Stories
Girl. Boy. Sea. is about two young people, alone together in a tiny boat on an unforgiving ocean. It’s a story of survival: Bill and Aya must discover who they really are when they are torn from everything and everyone they have ever known.
For days and weeks they are alone in the Atlantic: a land with no borders, a house with no roof, an emptiness of sky and sea that is vast, beautiful and terrifying.
How do they fill this ocean of time and space with no phones or TVs to entertain them? They fill their lives with stories.
Bill and Aya are as different as two characters ever were. To begin with they can’t fully understand each other. But they learn to communicate, and over time, they bond through the stories Aya tells. She is from a remote Berber tribe in Morocco where storytelling is a living tradition.
Her stories seem at first to be inspired by 1,001 Nights. To Bill they are ‘just fairy stories.’ But I’m cynical of anyone who easily dismisses their power. They are ancient and everlasting. Light on facts, but rich with truth.
Einstein allegedly said: ‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.’
We return time and again to fairy stories, through childhood books, versions found in fantasy epics, Disney movies and modern retellings such as those written by Angela Carter or Louise O’Neill.
But – aside from Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad – we are not as familiar with 1,001 Nights as we are with the Brothers Grimm collection of European tales, but it is just as rich and arguably more complex. Like the Grimms’ collection it doesn’t have just one author, but encompasses 1,000 different tales contained within one overarching story. It’s about a storyteller whose own characters interrupt the flow of action and tell us a new tale, or even several tales, before the storyteller resumes his story. Like Grimm’s, 1,001 Nights was formed over centuries of retelling, a pot with ingredients from many cultures and countries across the Middle East, and a counterpoint to the European ‘world’ of Grimm.
Where Grimm’s collection has castles, deep dark forests and wise old women, Nights has magic lamps, wily thieves, deserts, caves and demons. But where the settings are so different, many of the themes and even the characters are similar. Both collections have tyrannical rulers, drunk on power, too blinded by wealth to see the real treasures of love and kindness, and easily undone by plucky, brave girls and boys.
Aya uses 1,001 Nights as the starting point of her stories. Yet, in the tradition of oral storytelling, Aya takes flight with her imagination, creating casts of sultans, demons, djinees and – especially – fierce peasant girls. Bill wonders how much Aya is embellishing the tales as the main characters seem uncannily like her!
As she tells her stories they change, reflecting the reality of their surroundings and Bill slowly realises who Aya is and that she is telling her own story.
As days pass and starvation takes hold, myth, magic and reality blur. The sun becomes a sultan, searching the sky for diamond stars. A shadow follows, that might, or might not, be a shark. Or perhaps even death itself.
The stories form a trail of clues, a map of who Aya is, why she was on the boat that sank in the storm, and what she must do if they survive and return to the world.
I hope the reader is as intrigued as Bill, and like him, wants to find out the truth of who Aya is.
MY REVIEW OF GIRL. BOY. SEA.
I love the way Chris has introduced the story to you all above. Not only does it give you a fantastic flavour of the novel and the two characters, it also gives you a flavour of his writing style.
I really enjoyed this adventure novel. Bill is a teenager completing a Youth Sail Challenge when the yacht is caught in a storm off the coast of Morocco. After many days surviving in a tiny rowing boat, he rescues Aya, a girl clinging for her life to a barrel in the ocean. They drift on through endless days and long, dark nights; hungry, thirsty, sunburnt and scared. Aya tells Bill stories from her nomadic tribe to pass the time and to give them hope.
Vick's writing follows the ebb and flow of the sea and he places the reader in the scene effectively, making them feel as if they too are out at sea. The structure of the sentences and Bill's narrative mimics the rise and fall of the stormy waves and then captures the hopelessness of staring out across an endless horizon.
The two characters are very well crafted and the dynamics between them is beautifully developed - slowly and gradually showing how they become closer and the effect their experience has on them and their relationship. Aya is mysterious, alluring and intriguing. She seems magical and her storytelling shows how important the hope of rescue is - almost as lifesaving as food and drink.
For me, this echoed Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies and Island of the Blue Dolphin. It's a perfect mix of adventure, drama, tension and coming of age. Perfect for 11-14 year olds, this is a great summer holiday read for anyone who dreams of desert islands, wonders how they would survive at sea or loves that blend between reality and the magical. This is a treat - enjoy!
My thanks to Jade at Zephyr for the invitation to join the blog tour and the copy of Girl. Boy. Sea. This is my honest review.