Seriously? I Read That?

Review: Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson

Posted on: January 21, 2009

Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson
2007; HarperTeen. 323 pages. Young Adult

Seventeen year old Clio Ford is content to spend her summer working at an art supply store and getting closer to her co-worker and crush, Oliver. But one phone call causes Clio’s plans to come crashing down. Her mom is being sent to Kansas for a fellowship and Clio’s not invited. Instead, she’s being shuttled off to Italy to spend the next few weeks with her dad while he, his new girlfriend, his girlfriend’s daughter and his crew cruise the Mediterranean on a luxury yacht searching for a secret archeological treasure. Clio, reluctant to leave her home and her friends to spend time with a father she doesn’t quite trust, has no idea what kind of mystery her summer has in store for her. Girl at Sea offers readers a healthy dose of danger, romance, friendship, and adventure.

Ok. I have to comment on the cover. WTF? That girl on the cover could never, ever be Clio. I’ve noticed a pattern with Maureen Johnson’s books: Find a picture of a pretty, slim girl (with no face). Put her in tight pants and a tank top. Add in a few pieces of plot-related decorative flourishes. And Voila! A cover girl that has nothing at all to do with the strong heroines Johnson writes.

I’m probably overreacting, but this really bothers me. This cover is so generic that it short-changes what’s inside. I’m glad I didn’t judge this book (or 13 Little Blue Envelopes) by its cover. If I had, I likely would have assumed the novel would have been another formulaic teen romance drama. Which it definitely is NOT. If I wasn’t lazy, I’d start a petition to stop this cover design travesty. 🙂

Ok, onto more serious matters… Girl at Sea has a great pace and likable characters. There’s a bit of everything here: mystery, romance, drama. It was a great book to read while stuck in winter misery.

I’m quickly growing into a huge Maureen Johnson fan, almost entirely because of her heroines. Johnson does not write stereotypical teen girls- they are all fully fleshed out young women with diverse talents, desires, and motivations (which is why the covers bother me so much). Clio is highly relatable, even though many girls probably can’t even imagine living the life Clio has cruising around the Mediterranean. But Clio’s feelings, her relationships, her fears, and her weaknesses are all very real. The exotic locale is just that: a setting. It adds interest to the story, but does not serve to alienate readers. While most readers might not be able to imagine how it would feel to jump off the deck of a yacht into the dark sea, most can probably relate to being hurt by a friend or fighting with a parent.

Another thing I like about Johnson’s heroines is that they have romantic interests but do not need to be rescued. Clio does not need a boyfriend or a kiss to complete her. Clio needs to find something inside her- even though crushes and first kisses seem to take priority in her life, it’s not really what she’s looking for. While Clio gets what she wants in the love department, the other things she gets, the things she didn’t know she was looking for, are so much more
meaningful, satisfying, and life changing.

The inclusion of old letters keeps the mystery going and clues readers in on details related to the secret search that Clio is not yet aware of.

I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 4.5 sunken ships out of 5.

Book 2 for the Well-Seasoned Reader challenge
J Author for the A-Z Challenge


4 Responses to "Review: Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson"

Two exceptions to your Maureen Johnson cover dilemma: The Bermudez Triangle and Suite Scarlett. I haven’t read the former, but the girl on the cover of Suite Scarlett is perfect.

I totally agree with you about her heroines. I’ll have to read this one.

Melissa: True, true. I haven’t read Suite Scarlett yet, but at least the girl has a head 🙂 Perhaps the patter has been broke; I sure hope so.

I was just going to say Suite Scarlett’s cover is much better! 🙂 But I’ve become a huge fan, too, I think I’d love to have dinner with Maureen Johnson, I think she’d be a hoot. Haven’t gotten to this one, though I want to read it – glad to hear it’s great.

[…] The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff be about one (or more) person’s travel experience- Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)What’s in a Name Reading Challenge Tags: […]

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Where else you can find me:

Books That Go Bump in the Night- Halloween and scary books for kids and teens. My other blog.



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