Four mismatched teens. One act of violence. One nod by each of them to agree it never happened. This raucous yet poignant story of friendship, loss and long-denied regret springs to life in the dying days of high school in a seaside Pacific Northwest town. It’s a haunting journey into the gaps between right and wrong, between harmless half-truths and disastrous self-deception.
Sneaker Wave is the second book read in a set of four that Oolichan Books so wonderfully sent to us last year. The first one read was the (wonderfully excellent) short story collection, What Echo Heard by Gordon Sombrowski. My plan was to read Silent Inlet by Joanna Streetly next, but something kept nibbling away at the back of my head to pick up Sneaker Wave by Jeff Beamish instead. I cannot tell you how grateful I am now to that little voice that told me to reach for this book, and how sad in a way it felt that I had waited as long as I did to read it.
Jeff Beamish is a newspaper editor and reporter for a Vancouver newspaper, and you can really tell the experiences he comes across in that newsroom deeply affect his storytelling and shows very well in this fantastic and gripping story here. Bravo on this debut! Sneaker Wave was one of those books that I could not put down once I started, and shhhhh, please don’t tell anyone, but I spent one afternoon with my door closed to my office at work and finished reading this story. It has everything you could possibly ask for in a rollicking great read: both in the characters that are achingly flawed and rendered to perfection, and in the haunting storyline that tells of the consequences one action caused to alter so many lives for so many years and in such tragic ways. It was a stunning read.
This is a “review” that appeared for Sneaker Wave in the Vancouver Sun. Sorry though Jeff, I do not think this really does justice for your novel at all, and I was profoundly disappointed after reading it. You will have to trust me when I say that the story contained inside Sneaker Wave is an excellent one and one that comes fully alive due to the quality of Beamish’s writing, characters and storyline.
There were times when reading where the characters reminded me of those in “The Breakfast Club“. But please, do not take this as meaning they are clichéd set of teenagers. There is nothing at all clichéd about these people, about Brady, Sarah, Luke and Sam. It was just their characteristics and the unusual grouping of these teenagers coming together as friends and maintaining/respecting their vow of silence and secrecy.
Sarah: she is so perfectly rendered, she is the perfect encapsulation of a well-off teenage girl that fighting hard to resist her privileged upbringing. She works hard to always surround herself with people that will annoy her father the most. But as the story evolves following that one night of that tragic “accident”, the details of how Sarah spirals out of control and into this unfortunate life filled with sadness and desperation will take your breath away. Her downfall is heartbreaking.
Brady is the main character, or the narrator to this tale. There were so many times I was screaming at him to WALK/RUN AWAY Brady! Just leave this crew in the dust! Don’t stick around! This should be a fine indicator of how well these characters are drawn. It is Brady who struggles between what is right and wrong and how he emerges, however deeply scarred and marked, from this adolescent world to create a future for himself will keep you turning the pages well past your bedtime.
Sam is kind of like that tag along friend but is still no good influence for Brady. Following the “accident” or “incident” and as the secrecy these four kids maintain about it, Sam’s influence over Sarah takes a sad and disheartening turn. He’s just a no-good hanger on!
And then there is Luke. Luke is the thug, the criminal, the no-good presence and the boy that is very quick to anger. His hostile and criminal behaviour increases following that one fateful night. Because of Luke’s actions there are many times where Brady has stood back and considered his need to walk away from this group. But, for some reason gets pulled back in and every time is pulled down, culminating in that one tragic event during the party Sarah had organized.
It is this one tragic event where the four take a vow of silence and secrecy, and how hiding this truth works to unravel each of their lives and those involved in their lives in devastating ways. Beamish deftly describes the consequences of their behaviour and the lasting impact that one event holds for each of the four, most notably for Brady. Brady is never able to let go of the past and watching the unraveling of everyone’s lives around him proves extremely difficult for him.
…that Luke’s early life, and mine and Sarah’s and Sam’s, were defined more by my weakness than anything else. Not just the one notorious thing…, but the many others I failed to do. We all paid immensely for that weakness, the others much more than me.” pg. 399 (Brady)
“Even if I wanted to leave, Luke and I were fettered by my failures, intertwined by whispers, by pain and loss.” pg. 401 (Brady)
“I had always thought I knew the exact moment everything had gone wrong. Now I wondered if anything had ever been right.” pg. 407 (Brady)
I’ve already passed this along to a (book club) friend, since after finishing I felt she would most enjoy this read, and hopefully does just as much as I did. Again, Sneaker Wave was a powerful and stunning read. Just loved it. 4.5 stars. And many thanks again Oolichan Books for sending it along. Very appreciated. (And sorry for stalking on Twitter Jeff. I truly am looking forward to what you have coming out next though!) That’s two fantastic books from Oolichan! Therefore, I cannot wait to revel in the beauty and greatness of the other two sent.