Published by Dutton Juvenile on June 12th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, magical realism, young adult
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The psychological labyrinth of a young woman’s insidious connection to the sea, from the Edgar Award nominated author of Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. Callie Morgan has long lived choked by the failure of her own lungs, the result of an elusive pulmonary illness that has plagued her since childhood. A childhood marked early by the drowning death of her mother—a death to which Callie was the sole witness. Her father has moved them inland, away from the memories of the California coast her mother loved so much and toward promises of recovery—and the escape of denial—in arid, landlocked air. But after years of running away, the promise of a life-changing job for her father brings Callie and him back to the coast, to Florida, where Callie’s symptoms miraculously disappear. For once, life seems delightfully normal. But the ocean’s edge offers more than healing air ... it holds a magnetic pull, drawing Callie closer and closer to the chilly, watery embrace that claimed her mother. Returned to the ocean, Callie comes of age and comes into a family destiny that holds generations of secrets and very few happy endings.
When I read Kat Rosenfield’s debut, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, I knew she would be an author I needed to watch out for. I was mesmerized by the beautiful language and the poetic writing of Amelia Anne, and let me tell you, Inland did not disappoint. Filled to the brim with the lush, heady atmosphere of the shores and the coarse but gentle language of the sea, Inland will sweep you away to a place that might seem familiar on the surface, but holds something magical inside.
Calypso “Callie” Morgan is a daughter of the sea, for better or for worse. Her mother drowned at a young age, and Callie, a child, was there to see it happen. Ever since, her father, stricken with grief, has moved them further and further inland, away from the sea and it’s magnetic lure. But no matter how far away they traveled, Callie is still drowning. Her lungs are filled with fluid, the doctors can’t figure out why, and her life is that of a lonely, ill drifter, with no friends and no anchors to tether her to any home.
Callie’s loneliness of the first half of the book is harrowing. Rosenfield has captured perfectly what it means to have no one who knows you, no one to turn to. Callie’s father is protective, but cold. He’s even sometimes mean; when he looks at her he sees her mother and his bitterness and resentment pull up to the surface. Callie can’t help but see it. So she falls in on herself, to her laptop and her headphones and her books. Until finally they are called to the coast once more, via a job Callie’s father can’t turn down. Everything changes for Callie and her evolution is amazing. Her illness is suddenly gone, and it’s like a weight is lifted off her chest. You can see through each passage how happy she is, happier each day, how she doesn’t take a single breath for granted. She was hopeful and healthy and finally felt whole again, closer to the shore, with a briny river in her backyard calling to her. Callie’s change was gradual and because of that, realistic. She didn’t just turn around in one day; she had to earn every victory. These small triumphs really shaped Callie’s character. You can follow a line from each of them to the next and see how she became who she was meant to be.
I hardly have to explain how beautiful the writing was. Inland is all atmosphere, from the arid dry deserts of Callie’s previous homes, to the swampy riverbanks of this new town that brings her life. You can hear the current of the river, smells that salty sea scent in the air. You can feel the hot sand beneath your feet, and you can feel the suffocating deep of the ocean. It’s all there for you, in each and every page, and like Callie to the ocean, you can’t escape its grasp.
Inland asks a lot of questions, and I can’t discuss a single one without spoilers. But I can tell you I love the magical realism feel of Inland and the twists in its plot. Don’t expect any concrete answers, though. There is much left for the reader to interpret herself.
I couldn’t decide between four and five stars for this one, and I’ll explain why. I do love open endings. I have no problem imagining beyond the last page and coming to my own conclusions. But this ending didn’t satisfy me. The penultimate chapter was amazing, even beautiful. It would have been the perfect ending. I even liked the epilogue a lot, though I’m not usually one for epilogues. But then the final chapter came and raised more questions than answers, and I didn’t really like that. Like I said, I was fine with not knowing for certain, but to bring up one more uncertainty left me feeling cheated. Finally, the romance was a little off: I didn’t really feel like I got to know Ben, so when they professed their feelings I just didn’t, well, feel it. But I do understand why the romance was there, and I think it served the plot beautifully. I just wish Callie had more chemistry with her chosen love interest.
Fans of AS King, Nova Ren Suma, and Jodi Lynn Anderson will love Kat Rosenfield’s sophomore novel. Inland will transport the readers to the swampy south, the sandy coasts, and dark and deep of the sea. With gorgeous writing and a protagonist worth rooting for, you simply can’t go wrong.
This book covers the Water On Cover square of my Bookish Bingo card.