Explanation of rating
Summary: After a brief prologue (that takes place near the end of the story), the book begins on Sienna Jones' fifteenth birthday. A former California surfer-girl, she is now fearful and angry at the ocean that swallowed her mother's plane three years earlier. Sienna's parents were volunteers for international relief work, but since the death of her mother, her father Andy has stayed home to work as a psychiatrist to the spoiled rich people of the West Coast.
After a major tsunami hits Indonesia, Sienna's father "surprises" her with a plane ticket for across the Pacific Ocean to help the newly-made orphans cope with the tradgedy. While she is reluctant to agree at first [actually, she down-right refuses], a documentary about the orphans and her former-ish friend Spider (someone she's been distant with since her mother died) help persuade her.
Sienna, Andy, and his two co-workers (one a woman, Vera, who definitely has the hots for Andy; the other a family-friend who provides the occasional comic relief) take a plane across the ocean to Yogyakarta [no, it doesn't get any easier to pronounce the more times you read it], Indonesia. It's a terrible flight in Sienna's mind, spotted with variations of her recccuring nightmare. When Team Hope (the name they've given themselves in honor of Sienna's mother) arrives at the orphanage, she is immediately attracted to Deni, one of the boys affected by the tsunami... and he notices her too.
In the two weeks that Sienna is meant to be at this pesantren (orphanage) she bonds with the younger girls through art therapy and the older teenage girls in group therapy (both along side Vera). She hears about the tragedy and loss straight from the ones who experienced it, especially Deni. With the strict Muslim culture, it is a controversy for Sienna and Deni to even sit alone together, which makes their moments of sneaking away (sometimes out of the pesantren) more important to them.
It's hard to describe what continues to happen in the book, because it would be with the same words - bonding with the orphans, becoming attached to Deni, coping with her own loss - but the subtle changes in thought and emotion are what makes the story move.
It's during the climax of the story, with Deni of course, that Sienna herself realizes her growth and knows she can go home and let life finally move forward - for her father, for Deni, for Spider, and for herself.
Opinion: This is another ARC I received while at the Teen Author Carnival! A few weeks before the event, when I went online to see what each author had written, I knew right away that I wanted this book... Too bad it wasn't released yet. At TAC, it was one of my main goals to grab it any way I could.... Success. [hint: always participate in question/answer sessions! Authors will remember you, probably like you, and you can get free stuff from the people running the event!]
Kling [which, by the way, might be one of my favorite names ever] didn't create this setting with simple Google research, and that shows. Her husband had experienced first-hand the effects of the 2004 tsunami and through her connection with him, she is able to give the readers an even more personal connection.
If a book can make me cry, I automatically love it because that means the characters are relatable, or at least understandable, enough to really feel for them. Hell, for Sea, I even teared up a little as the girls in the group therapy scenes re-told their stories. When keeping in mind that there are lives like this across the world, it is hard not to feel touch and heartbroken. It's hard not to want to help in some way, especially now with so many recent earthquakes around the world. Kling's writing is able to express that in even a fictional story.
Her descriptive writing is creative and suits each scene perfectly - she is able to truly paint the images in a reader's mind without spending pages and pages with unnecessary words. Kling also has a specialty for writing the senses (like smell and touch) that make the setting even more real, as opposed to just sight. From the very first sentence of the prologue I was in love with her style; then at the very end of the book, she reintroduced the first page with the same image: "Flying creatures buzzed around my head. Too late, I slapped them away." It's a description that sticks in your mind, and once you read it again 300 pages later, you sit up and take notice that the writing has come around full-circle.
I realize that this might be more an opinion of Kling's writing rather than her book, but the story is already extremely intense and attention-grabbing. It takes a great writer, however, to make it something people will want to read and pass on to their friends.
p.s. I love the cover!
For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!) Yes. Plain and simple, it has so many aspects that teachers look for! The fact that this is based off a true occurance easily ties in with a current-events curriculum - especially the effects of natural disasters on children in "under-developed" countries. The mentions of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), cultural differences, and the respect of diversity could create days of discussions. For the more "English" aspect, the writing is beautiful; character development is subtle, while still obvious in the end; the integration of true facts with fiction is a great example for writing; and the narrator's voice is consistant and understandable. I would love to teach this one day!