Only the Ocean

Only the Ocean
Natasha Carthew
Published date
Bloomsbury Children's Books

I’ve got Only the Ocean by Natasha Carthew form a book box and, considering a beautiful cover, I couldn’t wait to dig right into it. It turned out it wasn’t that easy. The book is written in a very peculiar way. The author is heavy emphasising different accents and way of speaking for the main character, who is a girl from poor ‘swamp folk’. From the very beginning this book is very hard to read. I had to be very focused to understand what exactly was happening, and even though I tried, I often was confused and couldn’t imagine it at all. I think only because this book was not long (272 pages) I kept reading. Otherwise I would just put it away and never looked back. Fortunately after about 50 pages it got better… or maybe I got used to writing.

The book takes place in a near future (probably, nothing is said directly about it), where Cornwall was flooded and the whole mainland consists of huge swamps and high towers, where the rich people lives. Our main character is Kel Crow, a teenager who decided to runaway from her home in the swamps, taking with her only a knife and her little baby. She has a very precise plan for her future. She needs to kidnap a rich girl, swap her for a bag of drugs and sail to America to sell them and get money for operation fixing the defect of her heart. Seems easy enough for Kel, but of course nothing in life ever comes easy and two girls form different worlds end up stranded in the middle of the ocean on a small boat.

The whole book is the fight for survival. Kel is very determined to live to see another day and during their many dangerous adventures she’s starting to see the error of her ways. She promises herself that she will change her life around, if only she made out of the ocean alive. Of course a bond between the girls is starting to form, going from acceptance, through rough friendship to even something more. For me it didn’t really work very well. There were not much indication of their relationship development, just being constantly stranded with each other.

I also didn’t really like the ending. I felt that I should be very sad and maybe shed a tear or two, but I felt nothing. The few last pages felt quite ridiculous for me. I also did not like that there was nothing said about the world around characters. It was only hinted that something big and terrible is happening, but then everything is just left unsaid and you can made it up yourself. I feel like there was a very interesting story there and was completely left untouched. The story also includes tough problems like children abuse, rape and self harm, but all of it is just mentioned and characters don’t dwell much over it.

I didn’t like the story much to be honest. I think to enjoy it you have to be in very particular mood. I know that there is a lot of people who loved this writing style but I’m not one of them. Maybe if English was my native language I would appreciate it more.