Rating: 3/5 stars
Jay Murchison believes he is a nobody at his high school in Oklahoma. Coming from a conservative family of affordable luxury, Jay has an overwhelming desire to become something great. After a mysterious girl named Saphnie in North Carolina mistakenly texts him, an unlikely relationship develops that affects Jay’s self-perception and influences the rest of his sophomore year. This correspondence leads him to a group of thrill-seekers who provide a grand departure from the quiet life Jay is familiar with and eye-opening experiences to witness first-hand the truth behind the loose morals his fellow classmates have come to know.
In a story filled with injustice, hope, hatred, love, grief, and understanding, readers will ask themselves what it truly means to hear the ocean sigh and learn of the dire consequences that come with its responsibilities.
“Don’t you get it? I was the only one who got to experience it. That downpour was crafted SPECIFICALLY for me. Not my friends, not my parents, not Valerie, not you. I heard the ocean sigh. I did. It was my own private deluge.”
To Hear The Ocean Sigh by Bryant A. Loney is a contemporary, young adult novel that deals with themes like loneliness and suicide. Jay Murchinson is essentially his high school’s loser – or “Suicide Kid” – who is in desperate need of friends. But, one day, after finally getting a phone for his 16th birthday, he receives a text message from a girl named Saphnie by mistake. As aforementioned, Jay is in need of friends, and so decides to dive into an unlikely friendship with Saphnie via text messages, despite them living states apart.
The first thing I’m going to address is that is this novel is very slow-moving – if you like a fast paced read, this is not the book for you. Thus, at some points, I found it quite boring, and frankly couldn’t wait for the end, or at least some action. The reasoning for this, in my opinion is that, throughout the novel, Loney is commonly giving lengthy descriptions into things I do not care about. For example, pages and pages are dedicated to the description of a video game that has no relation to the story, nor does it further the story.
On the other hand, the plot for this book is very unique, and is definitely one I’ve never seen before. I really enjoyed how unpredictable some of the plot lines were, and also how this wasn’t a love story. Oh how I assumed I’d stumbled into a predictable love story! But I was wrong – To Hear The Ocean Sigh is a story of unlikely friendship, and the importance of making new friends, even to those you’d never usually approach.
Despite this, though, the characters lacked both originality and depth. I’ve read about all of these characters before in the majority of YA novels: the lonely boy who strives for popularity; the popular girl who is secretly just as much of a nerd as the boy; the on again, off again couple who have so many ups and downs, but finally realise they were meant to be after all. Jay doesn’t have a distinct voice at all, and – although likeable – he is very boring. This is very saddening, because it really drags the book down. What could have been a 5-star review, suddenly becomes a 3-star one.
Furthermore, on many occasions I feel as though this book tried too hard to be relateable. For example, on one occasion Saphnie – who comes across as a very smart and intellectual character – says, “I swear to God if anything happens to him I’ll cut a bitch.” Now, where have I heard that before? Oh wait, I know! All over Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – frankly, every other place that is trying be funny and relateable. Now, I’m not saying it’s illegal to say this phrase, nor am I saying smart people can’t be funny, either, but it just seemed so unnatural, and cringe-worthy that I had to put the book down for a moment or two. There’s also the fact that Saphnie switches from relateable to intellectual within a sentence, causing the attempt at being relateable painfully obvious.
Likewise, a character known as Kukowski exists as both Jay’s chemistry teacher and – in my opinion – a method to force laughs from the reader. After really looking, I found no other reason for him to even be in the book other than to try and make me laugh, which didn’t really happen at all. Frankly, instead of laughing, I sighed in discontent with this novel – it could have been so much more! However, as the story progressed, I did find Kukowski’s scenes to be a welcome break from all the heavy action on Jay’s part, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.
Alternatively, of course, there are things I liked about this book. Firstly, I really enjoy the structure of this novel; instead of simple chapters, this novel is formed into months, and sections within that month. These sections are named “so-many days ago” (eg. the first occasion of this is entitled “178 Days Ago”.) I really like this method, for it implies some action will come at the end, or there’s something really big coming within those days.
Also, finally, a book has been written dedicated to the mutual love of books! It’s always music or films or comics but now we have a book about the love of books! Bookception but also ultimate book love! I really enjoyed how Loney did this, because it’s the book, in a way, that ties all the characters together, and – obviously – I love books, too!
Overall, I did enjoy this novel, despite is being a little boring and slow. The plot was original, but maybe not portrayed as well as it could have been, thus concluding why I gave this novel 3/5 stars.
(Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Verona Booksellers in Tulsa, Oklahoma in exchange for an honest review. I would like to send a big thank you to Wes Florentine for this book, and also to everyone at Verona Booksellers, as well as Bryant A. Loney himself.)