I was sent a digital copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion.
To Hear The Ocean Sigh was a mostly average coming-of-age book, but it had a strong message and a compelling story. For an 18-year-old guy, it was really impressive. 🙂
This book follows Jay during the second half of his sophomore year of high school as an unpopular, unknown guy that just wants friends. At first, the story seemed like it would be a redundant contemporary, but it goes deeper than that. It talks about longing, loneliness, desperation, and darker topics like drinking, partying, drugs, and depression, as Jay learns about it all. The depth is hidden beneath a seemingly simple premise, and isn’t revealed unless you keep reading. It was engaging, but in a more subtle way: I read half the book in a matter of hours without realizing it. 🙂
Jay is the main character, and although I don’t know many teenage guys, I think he was an accurate representation of them. He was awkward, quiet, and at times desperate and clueless. He felt very realistic, and although I didn’t understand his desire to be popular, I could sympathize over other things — not really knowing how to talk to people, mainly. And, true to many real guys, he was also annoying. There was a point in the story where he admitted to not knowing how to cook a frozen pizza. XD (I mean “annoying” in the best way possible. Pretend that’s a thing for now haha.)
The other main character was Saphnie. She was a very articulate and popular girl, but also very misunderstood. I enjoyed the small twist — she wasn’t a nobody trying to become popular or an obnoxious popular girl. She was popular but didn’t want to be, and thought it was shallow. She was a bit of a bookworm and knew a lot of Latin. She always helped others with their problems, but never had anyone to talk to about her own. I liked her after I got to know her, and I admired how strong she stayed after going through so much. 😀 (Side note — I’m listening to Bea Miller as I write this, and I think the song We’re Taking Over fits Saphnie well.)
Then there were the side characters: Ethan, Lily, Megan, Ty, Nick, and Sandy. They’re the ones I have mixed feelings on. 😐
- Ethan was a good friend to Jay, but very jealous and kind of controlling of Lily.
- Lily was a bit reckless and had many problems she didn’t know how to handle. I think she was my favorite of the side characters. 😉
- Megan was the quiet, innocent girl that her friends thought was “too pure” for their secrets. I kind of envied her naïvety, but also felt bad that she was in that position.
- Ty was similar to Jay, but he wasn’t prominent enough for me to really have an opinion on him. I’ll just say he’s average. 🙂
- Nick was a freaking creeper. That’s all. XD (He was well-written, don’t get me wrong.)
- Sandy was kind of desperate, too. She needed to be told she was pretty, and she got jealous of other girls really easily. I can understand the reasoning behind her character, but I also think it was stretched a little too far.
- And although he’s not really a side character, more of a background guy, I want to comment on Mr. Kukowski. He’s a hilarious teacher, though I have to say, I’m not sure how he qualifies. He was the comic relief at times, though. XD
While I might not have liked them all individually, together they were a good group and enjoyable to read about. 😉
Most of this book takes place in Arminster, Oklahoma, Jay’s home. Some stereotypes for the area were mentioned, but in this story none of them were true. It was a normal suburban town with really hot summers and really cold winters, like many towns in the Midwest. (I would know haha.) A bit toward the end took place in Windhaven, North Carolina, where Saphnie lives. It was a beautiful coastal town. If I had to pick one, I would definitely choose the latter, but both were realistic and described very well. 🙂
Familial relationships were lacking, because as with most teenagers, Jay and Saphnie didn’t really see eye to eye with their respective parents. I think the exception was Jay’s dad and Jay’s sister Elena. They didn’t entirely understand everything, but they were both great listeners, which is what Jay needed. 😉
For the most part, I liked the friendship between Jay and company. They got along great most of the time, until about halfway through. Things got a little rocky at that point, as is realistic, but later on their silence seemed to stretch slightly beyond reason. Regardless, I was happy when they all made up. 🙂
My favorite relationship, though, was Jay and Saphnie’s friendship. Though it was entirely digital, it felt so real. It was a carefree, easygoing friendship: they could have short fun conversations checking up on each other, or deep talks about this or that. I would love to have a friend like Saphnie, honestly. 😀 (And if she was a huge bookworm like me, even better.)
I think one of my only problems was that there weren’t really any big twists until the end, and I had a feeling that one would happen. But to be honest, I didn’t notice until after I finished because I was absorbed, so it’s not too big of a deal. 😉
My one other problem with this book was the religion. I don’t mind a sprinkle of religion in books, but I think it was considerably more significant in this one. While it didn’t take away from my enjoyment, the discussions and youth group sermons did make me slightly uncomfortable because I have different beliefs. I won’t say anymore since this is a fairly sensitive topic, but I wanted to bring it up.
The other thing I wanted to mention is that I enjoyed the format. Instead of being told through chapters, it was told through days and months, starting in December of Jay’s sophomore year and leading up to his present-day life toward the end of June. I think it was a refreshing, creative twist in storytelling. 😀
On that note, though, I have to admit that the ending was slightly confusing for me personally. I can’t say a lot without spoiling the book, but I couldn’t put the pieces together. 😳
Originally, To Hear The Ocean Sigh was just an average contemporary and I was only going to give it an average rating. But after reading the ending and some other reviews, I realized it was more than that. It was a captivating read that shed light on topics not everyone is willing to touch. I normally applaud anyone who decides to, but I especially want to congratulate Bryant on this book because he wrote this so well and he’s only 18. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enjoyable. I’d recommend it to pretty much everyone. 😀
my rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR? If you have read it, what did you think? I’d love to know! 🙂
I’ll be starting Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck next! 🙂
My April wrap-up/haul/May TBR post will be up tomorrow. 😛
Until next time…