Drawing the Ocean

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Overview

A gifted painter, Sadie comes from California to Connecticut determined to fit in at her new school. Yet her first attempt at making friends in the new town backfires when she reaches out to the loner everyone calls Fryin' Ryan, the very last person who can help her achieve her dream. And to further complicate matters, her twin brother, Ollie, keeps appearing to her, seeming to want something. Her twin brother, who died when they were twelve.

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Overview

A gifted painter, Sadie comes from California to Connecticut determined to fit in at her new school. Yet her first attempt at making friends in the new town backfires when she reaches out to the loner everyone calls Fryin' Ryan, the very last person who can help her achieve her dream. And to further complicate matters, her twin brother, Ollie, keeps appearing to her, seeming to want something. Her twin brother, who died when they were twelve.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Moving from the west to the east coast, Sadie is trying to fit in at her new high school without her twin brother, Ollie, who died tragically when he was twelve years old. She becomes friends with Lila, who shows her around the high school campus and the popular crowd. Sadie is confronted with new friend relationships along with the group's parties involving beer and pot. Away from the group, Sadie's encounters with Ryan, the outcast, have her reflecting about friendships. Furthermore, she must face and understand her own fears and guilt in regard to Ollie's demise. The impact of the one twin's death, which was four years ago, continues to take a heavy toll on the family members. Sadie and her parents each try to cope with the loss and they each show different signs of its effects. Sadie has conversations with Ollie, whose life-like image appears before her at various times and places. The story deals with transitions and the change of friendships, family, and relationships.
VOYA - Beth Gallaway
Sadie's brother Ollie is wise beyond his twelve tender years, keenly observing the world around Sadie as she negotiates the rocky shores of adolescence. It makes sense that Sadie's twin would linger after being killed in a car accident, but no one else can see him, and sharing her visions of him would only upset her parents. Her peers already think that she is crazy for talking to herself. Torn between wanting to be her unique self and just fit in, Sadie sees a glimpse at normalcy in her new school. Befriended by sly Lila, Sadie dates a football hero, learns to drive despite her parents insistence that she wait to get her license, and engages in several rites of passage at a party. It is "Fryn" Ryan, the weird boy with a loser reputation, however, to whom Sadie is drawn and whom insightful Ollie pegs as a potential friend. MacCullough has a gift for using language with spectacularly evocative phrasing like "her voice is milk-white meek." Sadie's artist's eye makes for an incredibly observant and detailed narrative. Each scene is carefully constructed to evoke a set of emotions, often conflicting, such as the humor and frustration of a new bicycle. Characters are very strong with distinguishing quirks, like a mother who is a terrible cook, Lila's poise and flair for drama, and Ryan's poetic soul and bracing honesty. Catty Erica and jock Travis are more two-dimensional, but support the theme of embracing the extraordinary. The pacing and dramatic tension are lovely; details about Ollie's death are slowly unraveled and the dTnouement offers the catharsis and closure that Sadie-and her mother-desperately need. The title is an apt metaphor for the elusiveness of memory and of fitting in.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up
Since her family's move to the East Coast from California, Sadie has tried to fit in and have everyone think she's normal, which is something that outcast Fryin' Ryan of the weird T-shirts is definitely not buying. Ollie, Sadie's twin brother who died four years earlier, keeps appearing, and it's so hard not to talk to him. Sketching and drawing are her real love, but Sadie does well in academics too, using her competence to make friends with Lila, who sets the guidelines for cool at Pioneer High. Good-looking football star Travis seems to be paying attention, and Sadie is sure that if she can just keep her act together she'll have it all. Characters of every age come to life with vivid descriptions and dialogue that make this spare mood piece work. The pain of the parents who want to overprotect their last child, the friendly principal, Lila's mother's cryptic style that never masks her suffering, the sleazy coach who teaches driver's ed, and even deadpan Lila's uncharacteristic emotional outburst all fuel the fugue that is Sadie's gradual connection to what truly matters to her.
—Carol A. EdwardsCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In lyrical, sweetly unhurried prose, MacCullough paints Sadie, a 16-year-old artist newly transplanted to the east coast from California. Sadie's twin brother Ollie died when they were 12 and reappears to her on a regular basis; they have conversations. At her new school, Sadie wants to be normal. A sharp-edged but loyal friend comes along, attaching herself to Sadie and bringing along a small social group, including a gorgeous, magnetic boyfriend. Sadie sketches and paints constantly, both for herself (she always did) and because she promised Ollie she'd draw him the ocean. A tentative friendship with school outcast Ryan is vaguely hostile, but not in a problematic way. Sadie slowly navigates that friendship, forbidden at school, and hesitantly confronts her own desire to learn how to drive, prohibited by her frightened mother because Ollie died in a car accident. MacCullough's subtle use of present tense and visually evocative writing create an eloquent portrait. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596430921
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 10/3/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.65 (w) x 8.61 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Carolyn MacCullough's first book, Falling Through Darkness, praised as "a promising debut" by The Horn Book, was a New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age. In its starred review of Stealing Henry, Booklist noted the "flawless" dialogue. She lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

The sky on this side of the country looks different, less gauzy, and I wonder if I can get it down on canvas or if it will elude me the way the copper-blue of the California skies did for so long. I'm not ready to try for color yet so I leaf through my sketchbook until I come to a blank page. I take a breath, run my fingers down the smooth, white space before making the first charcoal marks. Quick glances to the sea and the way the gray Atlantic waves curl and hiss across the hard-packed sand, as if this is a test and the answers are all right before me. I draw for a long time, long enough for my brother to finally appear beside me.
"Do you like it here?" he asks, after attempting a handstand at the edge of my pink towel.
My fingers keep moving as I think about this question. I like the new house, especially my room in the cupola, the way the walls are round and resist all the square angles of my furniture. I have never lived in anything quite like it. And I like being so close to the beach, close enough that when I can't sleep at night, I pretend that the whole house is a ship that might slip its anchor at any moment and sail slowly, majestically off on the moonlit sea. Better than thinking about how I am starting a new school in a week and how many things could go wrong. Or not wrong, but not exactly right, either.
I had spent long dreaming hours on how to fit in at my new school. How it would be a chance to start over and not be that weird girl anymore who was seen talking to herself sometimes and who was way too into art. I had to make friends early and fast. And act normal. I was positive I could do it. But stepping off the plane and on the drive to the newhouse, I was suddenly not so sure.
And of course Ollie reads my mind and says, "There you go. There's your first friend now."
I squint into the distance where I know he is pointing at a tall boy dressed in jeans and a bright orange T-shirt. At first I think he is sitting on a folded-up chair, but then I realize it is a closed briefcase. He is scribbling into a white rectangle of a notebook and I wonder if he is drawing, like me. He looks about my age. "Him?"
"Why not? Go talk to him."
"Ollie. I'm not you. I can't just talk to anyone." I study this boy again.
"Come on. Go tell him a story."
"Oh, what do you know anyway? You're twelve." I watch as the boy sets aside his notebook, stares out at the water. "He does look kind of lonely," I concede, turning back to my brother.
Who is no longer sitting by my side.
I put up one hand, shield my eyes from the suddenly too-bright sun, watch a woman walk past me, burdened by a wide striped umbrella. Three small boys dragging towels almost the exact shade of the sea follow in her wake.
"I hate it when you do that," I say softly to the empty space beside me.
The woman cranes her neck, throws me a startled look, then glances back at her children. I return to my sketchbook, exchange my charcoal for my fine-point pencil. I don't say another word.
My brother, Ollie, died four years ago, and I've learned from experience that people don't handle it so well when I start talking to him.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A perfect book

    Drawing the Ocean is Carolyn MacCullough's third novel. Like her others it is geared toward a teen audience. But, like most of the books I review here, I can argue confidently that the writing has enough depth to entertain even snobs who refuse to pick up a YA or Children's novel under any circumstances.On to the actual review:

    After moving to a new town with her parents, Sadie is desperate to fit in. Even if certain aspects of her personality seem determined to keep Sadie from calling herself normal with any degree of honesty.

    Sixteen-year-old Sadie is a gifted painter. She spends part of every day at the beach, trying to draw the ocean for her twin brother, Ollie. Sometimes Ollie will pop up to keep her company and offer advice. The problem: Ollie died four years ago.

    Soon enough, Sadie makes friends Lila, a girl with her own problems to deal with. She also catches the eye of Travis Hartshorn, the popular boy everyone loves. But, in midst of all this, Sadie continually finds herself reaching out to a loner known to the rest of the school as Fryin' Ryan, begging the question is being normal more important than being a friend?

    At its core, Drawing the Ocean is a story about choices. About how certain choices can change everything in an instant. And how the right choice isn't always the easy one. MacCullough writes about all of these dilemmas masterfully. In addition, she also tackles the issue of dealing with a death in the family. As the story progresses, she shows how Sadie and her family are trying to move on. This becomes an underlying theme throughout the rest of the novel.

    MacCullough manages to creates a compelling story without making it melodramatic. In fact, the prose is surprisingly understated. The writing style is what I'd usually call a quiet book; the kind that would be read in a hushed voice instead of a booming one. The novel is also written in the present tense, which gives the narrative a unique quality (even though more and more authors are adopting this stylistic device lately).

    More important than the actual plot, though, are the characters that MacCullough has created here. This novel is sparsely populated so that each character matters and is able to become unique. In addition to the storyline, this is a novel that takes a close look at character interactions. She evokes the high school experience in a way that is subtle enough to resonate with everyone.

    The characters that MacCullough has created are real, there's no other way to say it. They're not the caricatures or cartoon-like characters that are common in comedic novels. They're not flat. These character are simply authentic, real. That is partly due to MacCullough's writing style. She focuses on the essential details, the little things people notice themselves in the real world, instead of trying to describe everything. In this way, the novel comes to life not necessarily as it would be in real life, but as a reader would see it in real life. (No review of this novel should stop before saying that Sadie and Ryan might be two of the best characters ever written.)

    In summary, this is a great book with beautiful prose, a compelling story, and amazing characters. And it's one of my all-time favorites. Ever.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Marta Morrison for TeensReadToo.com

    I really enjoyed reading this wonderful book. <BR/><BR/>DRAWING THE OCEAN is the story of Sadie, a high school student, whose family moves from California to the East Coast. Sadie is an artist who loves to draw the ocean, hence the title of the book. It is almost a spiritual thing for her. <BR/><BR/>She is very nervous about starting a new high school. You know, she is worried about being behind in her studies and having last month's hair. She should be nervous, though, because she keeps seeing and conversing with a ghost. <BR/><BR/>It is the ghost of her twin brother who had been killed four years earlier in a car accident. Sadie blames herself, and the subject of her brother is a forbidden one in her family. She meets a strange young man while drawing on the beach and later finds out that he is the outcast at the high school with the name "Frying Ryan." She also draws the eye of the hot football star, Travis. <BR/><BR/>Soon Sadie has a choice to make about who she wants to be. She can recreate herself, but does she want to be cool or kind? <BR/><BR/>This is a short story with a lot of emotional punch. I strongly recommend this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2007

    A reviewer

    I really enjoyed reading this wonderful book. DRAWING THE OCEAN is the story of Sadie, a high school student, whose family moves from California to the East Coast. Sadie is an artist who loves to draw the ocean, hence the title of the book. It is almost a spiritual thing for her. She is very nervous about starting a new high school. You know, she is worried about being behind in her studies and having last month's hair. She should be nervous, though, because she keeps seeing and conversing with a ghost. It is the ghost of her twin brother who had been killed four years earlier in a car accident. Sadie blames herself, and the subject of her brother is a forbidden one in her family. She meets a strange young man while drawing on the beach and later finds out that he is the outcast at the high school with the name 'Frying Ryan.' She also draws the eye of the hot football star, Travis. Soon Sadie has a choice to make about who she wants to be. She can recreate herself, but does she want to be cool or kind? This is a short story with a lot of emotional punch. I strongly recommend this book! **Reviewed by: Marta Morrison

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted July 22, 2009

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    Posted July 22, 2009

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