I’m all about Young Adult literature. Seriously (or, as they say in Bumped and Thumped, for serious). And I’m not all that difficult to please. All I ask is for interesting characters and a story line that captivates me. I don’t care if it’s realistic or fantastic – just give me something. Please, for the love of Rowling, give me SOMETHING.
Which brings me to Deborah Blumenthal’s The Lifeguard, which is so supremely frustrating that I want to reach into the book and smack someone. I’m not sure if it’s Deborah Blumenthal herself or her characters. But at least one of those people needs to be smacked and smacked thoroughly.
So we have Sirena. Her parents, on the verge of getting divorced, ship her from her home in Texas to spend the summer with her Aunt Ellie in Rhode Island. Within moments of going on the beach, Sirena locks eyes with – gird your loins – Pilot. Yes, PILOT. As in “he who can guide you safely on your trip.” That sound you hear? Is the heavy hand of Metaphor, thumping you upside the head.
Pilot is tall, blond, hunky and a lifeguard. Yes, a LIFEGUARD. As in “one who guards lives.” Cue Metaphor for more thumping. Pilot and Sirena lock eyes, and she instantly is smitten. Pilot, however, tells her that they can’t be together. Not to be deterred, Sirena buys a bikini and attempts to woo him. She also becomes convinced that Pilot has Healing Powers and can save people. Cause he’s, you know, a LIFEGUARD.
Meanwhile, budding artist that she is, Sirena meets Antonio, an eighty-year-old shaman-slash-painter. She confides in him her love for Pilot, and he encourages her pursuit of art. She also volunteers at the hospital, where she comes across a young boy attempting to survive an accident.
I want to draw on all the power in the universe to make him better so that he can go home. I want to make my parents love me too and I want to have a real home to go back to and a real life again.
I want to fix everything at once.
I ask for help as hard as I can as if there’s a giant healing machine you can call on to steamroll over all your problems at once and make them disappear. I want to fix the road ahead and make it freshly paved without any bumps so everything in life will be smooth and easy and filled with joy. I don’t care if that sounds like total make believe. It’s what I want.
No, Sirena. It doesn’t sound like make believe, just as it doesn’t sound like a 16-year-old girl. In fact, I think that’s my basic problem with Sirena: she never sounds true to a teenage girl. She sounds like she’s thirty.
And, of course, one day, our piloting lifeguard must rescue Sirena. Can he save her?
It isn’t that this is a bad book. I read it, cover to cover, and stayed mildly interest in it. But Sirena annoyed the daylights out of me, and Pilot … well. Pilot is just so fantastical that I occasionally laughed out loud in places where I probably was not supposed to find humor. Aunt Ellie seems kind of nice, and she has a boyfriend, but they are props in this story.
I kept thinking that somewhere in this book was a better book. I think I’d like to read that one.
Published by Albert Whitman and Company, and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.