WRITTEN BY ZARA SHANAVAZ
Symposia : 5/10
Goodreads : 4.07/5
“Books are special, Rachel. Books are important. Words are important, words matter in fact. They’re not pointless, as you’ve suggested. If they were pointless then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history. If they were just words, we wouldn’t write songs or listen to them. We wouldn’t beg to be read to as kids. If they were just words, people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them, and stop aching because of them."
Having been a zealous reader my whole life, I could not relate enough to the above quote. Throughout the entirety of this book, there has been a commentary and discussion about books, how they change the world, the way a person thinks, the way they feel, and how they create and preserve history. This has been beautifully depicted through Cath Crowley’s stunning writing.
'Words in deep blue' follows two childhood best friends; Rachel and Henry. Henry and his family own a second hand book store. What makes this bookstore special, is a section called the letter library. In the letter library, readers are free to underline, highlight, mark and write between the margins of the book but cannot borrow them. Through the letter library, people have acquired new friendships, fallen in love, and created lasting impressions on people unaware of the way they look or more importantly the way that other people look at them. In my opinion, this is a refreshing and beautiful concept amongst the trope ridden YA contemporary romance genre.This is however, where my praise of this book comes to an end.
Rachel leaves a letter in the letter library but Henry never comes. Years later, Rachel returns home after an unfortunate tragedy and must face Henry once again. In the nature of the genre, they rekindle their friendship and eventually of course, fall in love. However, were they better as friends rather than lovers?
The protagonists, Rachel and Henry, were stale and true to their generic names. My reading journey began with fantasy and YA contemporary. Since then, my reading tastes have very quickly evolved but I am still able to sense and recognise what makes a YA contemporary romance a good one and that is chemistry. Henry as an individual character was bothersome. Not only did he show little or no character development, he came off as selfish, arrogant, and pinning after a girl whom everyone except himself
knows is bad for him (so very YA, I’m aware). Rachel had the tragic-past-trope play in her favour. She created great representation for dealing with unresolved grief. As Cath Crowley so beautifully put it “We are the books we read and the thing we love. Cal is the ocean and the letters he left. Our ghosts hide in the things we leave behind.”. Both these characters together, did not work for me. They lacked chemistry and I believe that they had more intriguing dynamics as friends.
The plot was similar to a stagnation. It lacked flow and there was a sense of lethargy. The pacing was problematic as for the majority of there was a certain quietude. I kept waiting and waiting for someone to say something. Not unlike a lot of YA contemporary romance, nothing of any significance took place.
The only redeeming aspect about this book was the writing, structure, and format. The book is narrated via the perspectives of both, Rachel and Henry. Although, in between their narratives, we are let into the pages of the books in the letter library and are able to delve into and see the impact that books can create as we explore friends, couples, and even enemies bond over their love of books. The additional letters created
more rivet to the plot and most of the time, I saw myself rooting for the couples in the letters rather than our protagonists. Cath Crowley has a way of putting feelings and thoughts we did not know existed and putting them into words. If there’s one thing to take away from this novel, It is the commentary and writing.
To conclude, while the romance was weak, the characters were flat, and the plot was predictable, the writing was absolutely gorgeous. I shall leave you with this excerpt from the book talking about preserving books, “If we all gave up on the things we love when it gets hard, it’d be a terrible world.”