Friday, 4 December 2015

Reviewed by Arianne: Air by Lisa Glass.

Product details:
Publisher: Quercus Books.
Paperback, 352 pages.
Release date: June 4th 2015.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: YA
Series: Blue #2.
Other Books in Series: Blue
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.

 Being in a relationship with one of the hottest and most talented male surfers on the circuit is a dream come true… right?

Iris and Zeke get to travel to the most beautiful beaches in the world, competing in major surf competitions. Life should be perfect, but when Zeke is suspended from a surf tour in Hawaii, it’s clear there is some deep trouble in paradise. And then there’s Zeke’s romantic past: at every turn Iris is confronted by his old flames and his hordes of female fans.

Returning to Newquay, Iris finds that at home things have also changed. Her friends have moved on with their lives, and they sense Iris is keeping something – something bad – from them.

What really happened in Hawaii? Why was Zeke kicked off the circuit? And what secret is tearing Iris and Zeke’s relationship apart?

If you’re searching for an insight into a world ruled by the waves, and the adrenaline junkies crazy enough to surf them, then look no further than Air, the second book in one of the most unique series on the UKYA shelf. It tells the story of teenager Iris as she finds herself falling irresistibly toward a life of competitive surfing - and for a boy who’s been chasing breakers since almost before he could walk. This time, we find our heroes in the warm, mesmerising city of Miami, taking a break after a string of contests and long months of travel. I would’ve loved to have seen more of Iris’s old haunts of Newquay and Fistral Beach, but here Glass turns her expertise with unusual settings to the other side of the Atlantic. It makes for glorious, sun-drenched reading. 

 Much of what I loved about Blue – which swept a whole horde of YA fans into a veritable whirlpool of sun, sea, sand and surfer abs in 2014 - returns in Air, too: the jam-packed cast, the summer vibes, the surf-speak. It gives readers a glimpse of a way of life rarely seen unless you’re a surfer, but more importantly it’s so well-written you understand why people get drawn in by the lure of the ocean in the first place. It just clicks - as if to say, well, why wouldn’t someone want to throw themselves at the mercy of a reef or rocks when there are waves to catch? 

 But not all is perfect in paradise. Miami is a backdrop of contrast. Of expensive houses and rundown streets, of trendy nightclubs and dangerous gangs, of endless ocean and heaving crowds. Six months of competition with few others for company is starting to take its toll, and tensions soon run high between Zeke and Iris.

 I love books with characters in established relationships, but in Air, Iris and Zeke’s relationship isn’t exactly healthy. It’s not just arguing, lying and secrets; it’s important that readers know Iris and Zeke’s relationship turns toxic here. It’s damaging them in a way that stretches beyond the normal break-up-and-move-on course of action. Iris gave up everything to travel the globe and surf, but she also gave up everything – friends, family, her home – for Zeke. It leaves her isolated, particularly when he fails to treat her with the respect she deserves and likewise when we realize Iris isn’t as mature as she needs to be for the kind of life she’s chosen. There’s an unequal power dynamic and it’s not cool. I hoped they’d develop the camaraderie of a more realistic relationship, but it never happened. Iris has a lot of internalised misogyny that’s never dealt with, too; it’s particularly clear when she berates herself and judges other girls harshly (though to a lesser extent than in Blue, which has a big slut-shaming problem). It’s a pity, too, as the book could’ve done with more fun, supportive female friendships, what with best friend Kelly stuck in Newquay and glamourous, gutsy Saskia only making a handful of appearances. 

 Thankfully, the arrival of her older sister Lily gives Iris some of the support she needs and I loved every second with the effortlessly individual and basically brilliant Sephy. There are plenty of secondary characters to fill out the cast, from mysterious new guy Seb to face-from-Zeke’s-past Chase who gets one of the best lines in the entire novel. Elsewhere, it’s rare that any character says what they really mean, but with foreshadowing and mysteries you’ll be racing to solve, this story knows how to keep you reading. It deals with some tough issues and themes; it’s not perfect and not for younger readers, but it’s thought-provoking and worth reading.

 Unfortunately the book is also messy and chaotic. It starts with Iris hurtling from one embarrassing situation to the next and then dives into a dizzying collection of events that apparently all take place in the same few days and eventually just blur together in one giant game of narrative ping-pong, party after party, argument after argument. In the end - and this is not a sentence I ever thought I'd type – this book is too many parties, not enough surfing. Considering Iris is a professional surfer, she doesn’t actually spend that much time in the water. Far from being a dedicated sportsperson, Iris has an almost indifferent attitude toward her surfing in this particular adventure. I would’ve loved to have seen more of the six months of competition skimmed over between the events of Blue and Air, too. What can I say? Blue got me hooked on beaches and breakers, and there aren’t enough thrilling surf sequences in Air

 That said, there is a lot to enjoy about the rest of this cinematic, page-turning read. The easy, appealing flow of the writing drips with summer, it has drama in spades, and with that ending, readers will be itching for the next instalment.  There are some great laughs and it’s enormously entertaining - after all, how many other books do you know of which can claim deus ex Christina Aguilera?!

 In short: Exciting, intense, dramatic and engaging, Air is an enjoyable sequel to one of the most unique books on the UKYA shelf, with a great setting and definite style. It has many faults, but if you liked Blue, then Air is a must-read.


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