Rummanah Aasi
Description: The Larkin family isn't just lucky-they persevere. At least that's what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn't drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer. But wrecks seem to run in the family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can't stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.
  Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family's missing piece-the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.
  She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.

Review: The Last True Poets of the Sea is a character driven novel that is loosely inspired by Shakespeare's gender bending comedy play Twelfth Night and invokes so many emotions about family, friendship, and mental health. Violet's family splinters after her twin brother Sam's suicide attempt and hospitalization. Violet Larkin reacts by flirting with a man in the waiting room. This last year, her partying has gotten out of control, and bewildered by their fragile son and wild daughter, her parents send her to Lyric, Maine, to stay with her mother's brother Toby. Lyric is significant to Violet's family as legend has it that the town was founded by Violet's great-great-great-grandmother Fidelia, the only passenger aboard the Lyric to survive a shipwreck, and her descendants have disaster in their blood. Violet is determined to find the shipwreck and find a way to reconnect with her family.
  Exiled at Lyric, Violet feels adrift and wrecked with self-guilt and shame. In hopes of finding and anchoring herself, she assumes a new identity, both physically by shaving off her luscious locks and trading her form fitting attire with loose clothing and internally by vowing to change her reckless personality. At first glance Violet comes across as very abrasive and a rebel without a cause. Though she loves her Uncle Toby, she is unable to open up to him and shuts down immediately when asked to talk about her emotions. I loved Violet's humor, her candidness about her sexuality, and her self awareness. As readers get to know her, they realize that Violet's party girl behavior is her cry for emotional intimacy in all of her relationships, whether it is familial, platonic, and romantic. 
   The book is centered on Violet's internal and metaphorical journey of a shipwreck. As she digs deeper into her family history and becomes obsessed with finding the shipwreck, Violet begins to make real friends while she volunteers at the local aquarium with Orion and his group of friends.  Like Shakespeare's play, a complicated love triangle between Violet, Orion, and Liv develops but it is resolved slowly as Orion and Liv begin to develop as three dimensional characters. At first glance Violet is attracted to Orion on a physical basis only, but soon realizes that she is attracted to him because of his soulful connection to music, which also plays a pivotal role in Violet's life. Unlike Orion, Liv and Violet both come from families who are trying and failing to deal with conflict. I really appreciated that this love triangle was not just a typical YA trope in the book, but a literal device in showing both Violet's, Orion's, and Liv's character growths.
     I also really appreciated Drake's handle on familial relationships in this book. Interwoven with Violet's life at Lyric, we also get flashbacks, which are interestingly narrated by an omnipresent third person, on the impact of Sam's mental illness on Violet's family. The book underlines the danger of stigmatizing mental illness as Violet begins to contend with her own anxiety and her near paralyzing fear about her brother’s illness. If you enjoy character driven stories of self-discovery with a hopeful ending that talks candidly about serious issues, I highly suggest picking up The Last True Poets of the Sea

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drinking, mentions of drug use, a fade to black sex scene, frank discussions of sexuality, and mentions of suicide and self harm. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, and Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
3 Responses
  1. This sounds like a wonderful book. I wonder if kids will catch the relationship to Shakespeare.

  2. “Character driven” sometimes gives me pause, especially in YA lit, but I liked some of the “If you like this” suggested books, and I’m interested in this one. Nice review.

  3. A family saga done well is just so enjoyable to read!

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