Seventeen year old Clio has just had to turn down her summer job in order to spend the summer in Italy with her father. While this sounds like a dream summer, Clio is NOT impressed. First of all, it means that she’s going to be spending the summer away from the hot boy who works at the art store. (And how is Clio supposed to make the hot art store boy her boyfriend if she’s not even on the same continent as him?) Secondly, it means spending it with her father, whose ideas happen to be behind the most disastrous incidences of Clio’s life. Thirdly, she has to spend the whole summer on a boat in the middle of the ocean with five other people (most of whom she doesn’t know) without any telephone or Internet access, and without being told what this big secret expedition is all about. And then of course there’s Aidan, assistant to Julia (Clio’s dad’s partner in this escapade), who Clio happens to find both absolutely infuriating and completely drawn to…
I like stories that take place on boats. I always have, and I always will. I think it has to do with the fact that the characters are stuck with bunches of people and so have to deal with them in fairly close proximity whether they like them or not. It certainly makes for interesting stories. There’s also the sense that the characters are heading towards adventure, which is always fun. Girl at Sea was no exception.
It has Johnson’s signature wit and humour in it, while still making the characters believable and relatable. Johnson is really great at bringing on the funny through the narrator’s voice in a not over-the-top way, that still manages to show how this character relates to the situation she’s in and the people around her:
Something in her refused to give over control of the suitcase. It was hers. Her suitcase, her stuff, her life. She would have insisted even if her hand was broken. Even if she was dead. Her zombie would pull the suitcase before she would let her dad have it.
As mentioned, her characters are really relatable. They feel like people I would have gotten along with very well when I was a teen. The main character, Clio, was definitely highly enjoyable – perhaps one of my favourites of Johnson’s main characters. She’s bitter, funny, insecure, sometimes over-dramatic, and makes awesome references to geeky things (such as the zombie reference quoted above). There’s just so much depth in that character that is begging the reader to explore.
The other characters were also fun, but didn’t get enough time in the book focused on them so I didn’t really care about them too much. They were good for the story, but I wouldn’t want to read a book just about them, you know?
The Bottom Line: Definitely would recommend this, just for the humour and for Clio. Personally, I’ve marked off some of the funniest passages and will no doubt flip through the book to those parts whenever I need to read something amusing.