IQ "I want you to understand. I left my home because I did not want to see. They said, 'You will have a new life. You can get your education.' I thought here I had nothing. But I was wrong. this is still my home even if something terrible happened here. If you do not want me to talk about these things, I will not, but please do not be sorry for me." Deni pg. 259
Sienna (Sea) Jones is still reeling from the death of her mother three years ago in a plane crash over the Indian Ocean. She has nightmares about it and is extremely nervous about plane travel. So you can imagine her surprise when her father invites her to join his international relief team (Team Hope) for two weeks in Indonesia over the summer. As a birthday present. Even though Sea is convinced her father is crazy, she decides that she can push through her fears in order to children who have been left orphans by the tsunami. While there, Sea meets Deni. Deni is unlike any boy she has ever met, handsome, pensive and always a bit sad. When Deni hears that his father might still be alive, Sea insists that she go with him, back to Aceh (one of the places hit hardest by the tsunami). Neither of them expects what they find, and both learn that family is not solely biological.
Let's just get out of the way what I didn't like. I didn't like Spider. Well I liked his character, but he seemed random. I didn't get enough of a feel for his character to understand why he was constantly in Sea's thoughts (how can there even be a Team Deni and Team Spider?). Sweet enough but he was no Deni. By that same token, Deni was too-perfect. He didn't really have any noticeable flaws. OK he smoked, but not a lot and that didn't bother me much. I also wanted to see Sea spend more time with the orphans. I knew it was a romance, so I guess I should have expected more focus on the romance part of the story, but I was really interested in the work Team Hope was doing. The stories of the orphans were heartbreaking (even more so when I consider that I, personally, hadn't even thought of the tsunami victims since 2004. Yeah I suck) and I liked reading about how Sea was able to connect with them, they were both going through a form of post-traumatic stress.
I was surprisingly swept away by the romance. The author's writing is such that she easily convinced me that the connection between Sea and Deni was instant and intense. Even though I say intense, it never goes very far. I mean intense in the sense of feelings they have for each other, they become best friends so quickly, willingly to follow each other anywhere. Deni is absolutely adorable and even though he was too perfect, I was happy to accept that fact. He was vulnerable and he helped Sea to move on, just as she helped him. While working on this review, I tempted to say I didn't like the ending, but that wouldn't be fair. I didn't like it, but it was well done. And the only reason I didn't like it is because it made me show some emotion. I was totally sniffling and very surprised. I loved the bits with the orphans because not only did we get to see Sea (haha) come out of her shell, bit by bit, but the children also grew emboldened. I also really liked that the American relief workers weren't hailed as saviors, some people viewed them with distrust (and rightly so because we Americans tend to rush to help right away and then forget). Going with that, all those who tried to "help" didn't have the purest of motives, American or otherwise. I liked that this aspect of charity work wasn't ignored.
Sea tells a tale that lives up to its name, both the character and the body of water. Sienna is a bit hesitant, but she really steps up when needed. She's impulsive, magnanimous, smart, and wholly endearing. Like the body of water, the story is calm and stately at times, then it becomes piercing and passionate. Since I'm already using a ton of cliches, I might as well keep going. The romance will sweep you off your feet. I thought the romance would be needed-relief from the heart wrenching stories of the tsunami, but instead it piles on the heartache. And that's OK. It's what makes this story so great and sets it apart from the rest. I don't think all of the characters are unforgettable, but I enjoyed spending time with all of them (or getting annoyed at them). Sea and Deni will not be forgotten after closing these pages, at least not right away. Not only do we read about an enticing romance, we learn about parts of Indonesian culture and we are reminded that after a crisis, we can't just rush to help and then forget. And we can't just feel pity because that's lazy. We need to work to understand, remember and respect.
Disclosure: Won from Lizzy. Thank you!
PS Off-color refers to a review in which the main character is white but a major character is a poc. Or the author is a poc but wrote about white characters. In this case, it's the former.