The Starboard Sea: A Novel by Amber Dermont
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The hype suggested this was a blend of A Separate Peace and A Secret History, but the reality is that this is a much slighter novel.
Set during the mid-80s, referencing Oliver North/Fawn Hall, Gary Hart/Monkey Business, The Preppy Handbook, Robert Chambers (aka "The Preppy Murderer") and Dorian's, this exploration of Jason's final year of high school is more about his sexual confusion, feelings for Aiden and guilt over his best friend Cal's suicide than it is about resolving any great mystery. We see Jason pulling away from the people he's grown up with, starting to grow beyond the limitations of his social and economic class. Bellingham is the prep school of last resort and Jason tries to make it a starting point for something new rather than relying on his father's money and position.
The problem isn't that these aren't universal themes, but that the setting and characters are so clearly part of the mid-80s St. Grottlesex experience that those not part of that world may not relate to it.
ARC provided by publisher.