Since her mother's disappearance and presumed death three years prior, Sienna's been plagued by grief and doubt. With her fears and her inability to process her pain, her father proposes a trip to Indonesia. In helping others like independent Deni, fragile yet sweet Elli and the other orphans it is possible for her to move beyond her own problems.
In helping them can she help herself? Or something even greater?
Review - Kling attempts a huge array of issues in her debut release and prove to be adept in keeping a clipping pace without doing a disservice to her characters. She's taken on many facets with character that is as fragile yet immovable as Sienna. Sienna is a wholly relatable yet occasionally trying character that manages to draw in the reader while also pushing them away.
The most interesting facet of Sea is undoubtedly Sienna's work with the orphanage kids. In helping them heal, in listening to their stories she is able to work through her own grief and loss. At times it is too obviously depicts Sienna's mind frame but it always traverses the line of understanding, healing and growth.
The world of Yogyakarta, Indonesia isn't exactly familiar to most people but the author sketches a portrait that encompasses the experience on many levels without overwhelming the reader with 'look how much research I've done' information. Kling knows her stuff, portraying the setting in a way that a landlocked reader can process, it informs instead of drowns the reader with unessential details. It sounds relatively simple but juggling a realistic picture of a language, sights, smells as well as the cultural and religious complexities is quite a task. Kling acquitted herself well.
Sienna's issues with her psychiatrist father is a complex, sometimes puzzling one,. He clearly recognises how to assist the tsunami orphan's post traumatic stress disorder but has done very little for his own daughter in recent years. Sienna's chosen not to discuss her mother's passing, keeping it close to her but when she has asked questions her father has failed to engage. It is a character quirk that irked me. That this man could not find the avenues for his daughter to grieve within his area of experience. And yet, he's extremely warm and clearly loves his daughter. He's just scarily out of his depth. Forcing a trip on her, under the guise of a birthday present in order to make her confront her fear of flying, separation anxiety, grief and his (possible) moving on isn't really looking after his daughter's well being. It just goes to show that psychiatry can never be an exact science as long as people process and grieve in a myriad of ways.
The romance element of the story was less effective. We are introduced to a boy that Sienna has disconnected with as a result of her loss. The second boy is supposed to be life changing - I didnt' get it. The first boy, Spider, made an impression, the second left sweat stains. Some of my strong feelings for this play into my connection with Spider, some is me failing to buy into Sienna's instant gravitation towards Deni. It is understandable that they had much in common but I didn't find the physical connection or their dialogue strong enough to invest in. That being said, further development could imply that there is a reason I didn't. That everyone else in the book, other than Sienna, realises that the picture she has of Deni and her together isn't real. Instead it fills a need that she didn't realise she had. A connection with someone who knows her post-mum. Deni's a crutch, a crutch who happens to kiss well and whisks her off toward adventure. Or maybe I am just projecting? The resulting story of Deni and Sienna's relationship left me feeling bad for the wrong character, the one that wins but is inevitably robbed in the end.
Kling tells her story in a simplistic manner. It takes the reader on Sienna's journey from point A to B with little jarring and the occasional flashback. The dialogue flows well into her direct style which contrasts nicely with the delicate emotional work of the story. Kling definitely knows how to accurately depict the selflessness and occasional pettiness of a teen and uses her protagonist to paint a picture of a scarred landscape, a grieving country and the people who try to help. It's a story of big ideas and even bigger feelings - it indicates that this is an author you need to keep on your radar.
Published: June 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenille