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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Edgewater: A Novel

I have been a fan of Courtney Sheinmel's Stella Batz series for a few years, so I picked up her YA novel, Edgewater, at Book Expo a couple of years back and read it in my end-of-semester reading frenzy.

Lorrie and her sister were abandoned by their father when they were small kids, and their mother ran away with her boyfriend a few years later. Since then, they have been raised by their Aunt Gigi who suffers from mental instability. Their once grand estate on Long Island, Edgewater, is notoriously in shambles and they live as though an episode of Hoarders has come to visit. Lorrie has been able to put it all out of her mind while she is off at boarding school. Suddenly, though, her trust fund left by her mother has run out and she must return home to set things strait. While there, she runs in to Charlie, the wealthy son of a senator and presidential hopeful. If only she could know that their lives would become inextricably linked...

I was pleasantly surprised at how I drank this novel down, and quickly. I figured out the twist fairly early on -- Sheinmel foreshadows well -- but it didn't ruin anything for me. The gift in this book is the character development. Sheinmel has written some compelling women in this story, ones who are flawed and messy but so strong and willful. Those are my favorite kind of female characters. Lorrie is a force, and her determination to fix the mess that her family is in is admirable and beautiful to watch, because she bends until she breaks. Oh, what a bend it is though. Her first-person accounting of this moment in time shows the reader that she desperately wants to be more than what her family is portraying on the outside -- broken, decrepit, and hanging on by a thread. She uses the trust fund her mother left her when she ran off to Europe with her boyfriend to better her circumstances -- attending boarding school with her best friend, taking up riding, purchasing her beloved horse, and attending riding camp in the summer. When all of this falls apart, she must find the money in order to keep her standing. Watching her claw her way out of the mess that her aunt has gotten her in was amazing.

One of the things that struck me about this characterization was the character arc that Lorrie took from the beginning to the end of this story. She could have remained an absolute brat, but instead she became an empathetic, caring human being who could dig deep and accept the truth of her life circumstances as well as one could. The twists and turns of this story came naturally within its confines, and watching Lorrie develop as a character fit right into the story development like a missing puzzle piece. Charlie was also a defining character, and one that served to bolster the development of Lorrie as a character and a human being. This is not a lovey-dovey fairy tale, but rather the development of a relationship of two young people who are driven to their choices by sheer circumstance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I was glad that I pulled it out of my TBR pile when I did. It hit the spot for a summer day, and I felt as though I were living in the book as I was reading it. (SPOILER ALERT!) I was quite sad when I knew that Lorrie would sell Edgewater, because as it finally began to be cleaned out and up, I could see in my head the beauty of the estate and the manor it could become again. I wanted to buy it myself and take it on as a fixer upper. But alas -- fiction is, by definition, not real. 

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