This is the premise behind Wave Watcher, a powerful YA novel by Craig Alan Johnson. It is a story of relationships, of dealing with loss, and, ultimately, of finding your own voice.
As Ray watches the clock tick off the hours, he recounts stories from his life – first in the US then in Brazil, where he moved with his parents and younger brother Louie. Overshadowing these heartwarming and often funny tales, however, is the mystery of what happened a year earlier, an event so terrible Ray can only hint at it until the dramatic finish of the book.
I love the relationship between Ray and his brother Louie, but the real focus of the book is Ray’s relationship with his father. Ray idolizes his father and dreams of becoming a writer just like him. Through Ray’s stories, we see how his father has been gently guiding Ray to find his own voice as a writer and, more importantly, to discover what it means to be an authentic, caring human being. I love that Ray’s father never talks down to him. He doesn’t skirt around difficult issues but instead finds ways of discussing them that Ray can understand, always leading him to make his own conclusions.
While it is mentioned early on that Ray and his family are Bahá’ís, it is not a primary focus of the book. While Bahá’ís will immediately recognize threads of the book that characterize the lives of many Bahá’ís – a multicultural family, moving to another country, the importance of the arts – these are themes that will resonate with many other readers as well. And while they do help us to understand this family, the core message of the book will speak to anyone who struggles to find their way after suffering a loss.
This book is written for young adults (pre-teens and teenagers), but I would say that parents should be sure to talk with their kids before and after, as the subject matter, while beautifully handled, is still difficult, especially for younger readers.
Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book to review; however, all opinions are my own.