Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, review by Shelly Walston
Words in Deep Blue is part The Storied Life of AJ Fikry and part Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. The character-centered chapters add depth to Cath Crowley's young adult novel, letting the reader see inside the minds of each main character, Rachel and Henry. It's a truth universally acknowledged that navigating teen life is difficult; add to that loss and love, questions about the future and the likelihood of overcoming the past, and you'll feel like you're drowning in limitations (or possibilities), just like Rachel.
Henry's family owns a secondhand bookshop, housing books that have been loved and left. Rachel's loved and lost too; her brother Cal drowned only months ago. Rachel and Henry have a long history together, but they left that behind when Rachel moved away three years ago. After Cal's death, Rachel returns to work in Henry's family's bookshop. Her job is to catalog the Letters Library, a place where readers, passersby, and lovers have placed their notes; some notes are simple - a circled word or an explanation in the margin - others, though, are entire relationships - budding and coming to fruition or attempted and failed. During her cataloging, Rachel discovers that despite her loss, she can still find a future. Henry realizes that Rachel's friendship is something he can't afford to lose.
Crowley manages an intimacy through her words, through the relationship between Rachel and Henry. These young characters are wise, they're well read, and they have a zest for life that makes it possible for them to surmount the loss and limitations that once held them back. I couldn't put Words in Deep Blue down, partly because of the literary references (who doesn't love bookshop as backdrop?), partly because of the truthful grappling with loss, but mostly because the relationship between Rachel and Henry is one that I rooted for.