Special thanks to the Inkberry Bookshop for recommending A Sea Change by local author Will Barnett. Something of note, Barnett wrote the novela as his high school senior project, and it was written, edited and published over the course of four months.
(Sorry, y’all, this week’s been crazy; I don’t have a vlog this time)
There’s certainly a youthful vibe to this book. In it, we follow Arthur, a high school senior who has become a recluse over the past two years. At the end of his sophomore soccer season, then-popular Arthur went to a party that ended badly. Ever since “the incident,” as he calls it, Arthur is riddled with anxiety, turning to books and music as a way to escape the real world.
Everyone who was once close to him seems concerned, but no one really seems to know how to reach out to Arthur. His dad tries to share in Arthur’s newfound bibliophilia, but Arthur just isn’t a suspense fan. His mother longs to just talk to her son, but is unsure where to start. There’s still Shaun, his friend since freshman year, but Shaun has his own life to worry over. Thus, Arthur is alone in the world, and he’s okay with that… at first.
Even Arthur realizes that an adolescent recluse isn’t “the norm,” and that his habits aren’t the textbook definition of “healthy.” So when Shaun reaches out and suggests they go for coffee, Arthur agrees, but is very anxious about it. This anxiety only grows when, upon arrival at the coffeehouse, Shaun says he can’t make it. Arthur is faced with a choice: go back to the safety and seclusion of his apartment, or, since he’s already pushed himself this far, he keeps pushing his own boundaries.
I have to admit, up until this point, Arthur was a bit of a difficult character to read and sympathize with. While I understand that social anxiety can be extremely taxing, it frustrated me to see Arthur push people away. It broke my heart to read the description of him sitting in the coffee shop, avoiding eye contact at all costs. So, when Arthur decided to try and challenge himself, I was so excited–for him and also to see what would come next.
First, he finds himself in a quirky, nostalgic bookshop; then, a beautiful garden and within a crowd watching a talented street performer. It was so satisfying to see this character growth. I loved seeing Arthur become more self aware, more content, more open. Perhaps most interesting about the growth, however, was the fact that Arthur is very introspective from the beginning, but it’s almost as though the way he sees himself and his place in the world has changed.
Barnett is certainly a very thoughtful, detailed author. I especially liked his descriptions of the shops and gardens Arthur explores. Whether it was a description of bookshelves or the memories evoked by music, it was just so rich.
I think that this book is definitely for readers who like realistic, thoughtful fiction. It isn’t very fast paced, despite the fact that the story takes place over the course of a day. It is, however, a quick read, at just under 130 pages. The writing is engaging, and since it is so descriptive, it forces readers to feel for Arthur while also reflecting on one’s own life. I loved how observant and in-the-moment Arthur is throughout his journey, and it almost makes readers want to be more in touch with the world too.
I’ll be taking April off of reviews, but I may post between now and my return in May, so keep an eye out.