Jaffe’s exceptional debut, a heartfelt coming-of-age story set in Portland, Ore., in 1992, exquisitely captures the nostalgia and heartbreak of youth. Teenage Julie Winter tries to make meaningful connections as she navigates the tricky world of high school cliques, while living in the shadow of her older brother, Jordan, a former Olympic hopeful now living in Germany. She and her friend Erika hang out together, dissecting every nuance of their peers’ actions. Julie surreptitiously checks the swimming magazines at the local news store to see whether her noncommunicative brother has reentered the sport that once dominated the Winter family when he was an up-and-coming star. A radical shift occurs when the popular Alexis, cocaptain of the swim team, invites Julie to try out. Erika joins as well, and Julie feels both overwhelmed and at home in the water, coping with her brother’s legacy yet wanting to make her own mark. A new relationship with one of her brother’s fellow swimmers, Ben, now a freelance landscaper who also works as a magazine rep at her local store, provides her with some unexpected clues about Jordan’s life. Using spare, precise prose, and with a fresh, strong voice, Jaffe explores Julie’s budding sexuality, her unexpected attraction to Alexis, her awareness of the limitations of friendship, and the angst young women face as they begin to confront adulthood. (Sept.)
Sara Jaffe is a damn fine writer and an important new voice.
Dryland is a gorgeous, layered, meticulous, clamoring, beating heart of a thing about a sullen teenager swimming and not swimming, kissing and not kissing, in Portland in the days of grunge.It will make you want to swim there back there back twenty times without stopping.
Remarkable. It’s realism, but its realism brushes ever so deftly against the allegorical,making the novel shimmer, part diary, part dream.
I love it.I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book that felt more sincere, that was so unbesmirched by knowing irony or commentary or authorial interventions. It’sa rare and sweet thing.
Dryland is a poignant coming of age novel set in the Portland of the early '90s, a fascinating debut.
The chronicle of a teenage girl in Portland circa 1992,
itreads like My So-Called Life's Angela Chase cut with Annie Dillard, plus something all Jaffe's own.
Achy in that way that nostalgia for the teen years is. Ethereal, shrouded in mist, like the Pacific Northwest the book is set in, seeming at once crisp and fuzzy.
Like waking up from a really vivid dream.
a powerful book with a unique voice.
The real highlight of this month was
Drylandby Sara Jaffe. It’s such a small book, and itpacks a huge punch. It takes place in the 90’s, and somehow reminded me a lot of The Perks of Being a Wallflower ...It’s about swimming, and families, and growing up, and so many things in under 200 pages. Amazing.
Jaffe's directness of style . . .lends itself well to the emotional tenor of adolescence.
New York Times Book Review
The chronicle of a teenage girl in Portland circa 1992, it reads like My So-Called Life's Angela Chase cut with Annie Dillard, plus something all Jaffe's own.
Sara Jaffe offers a coming-of-age story so steadily understated it'll ring incredibly true to those of us actually of age.
Jaffe captures a perfect time capsule of an age when cassette tapes ruled and personal phone extensions were the closest thing to a smart phone but when growing up was still no easier than it is today.
Its title notwithstanding, this moody coming-of-age novel is soaked in the damp of Oregon winters and poolside locker rooms. Julie, a high-school student, joins the swim team, hoping to orbit a female crush and to understand the disappearance of her brother, a former Olympic hopeful. She is exquisitely attuned to itches and achesthe constriction of a new bathing suit, the throb of a full bladder. Only the pool releases her to a dimension 'like sugar, like a dream.'
Jaffe’s meticulous, frank texturing keeps the sex talks and scenes from sinking under tropes of adolescent awakening and presents queer desire as just one of Julie’s innumerable, unstoppable sensations.
Highly introspective, thoughtful, and compassionate,
Dryland is an exacting and authentic coming-of-age story.
Drylandisis a unique portrayal of teenage angst, as well as an interesting and
sincere perspective on a young woman’sdiscovery of her own desires.
This slim, spare novel is told entirely in first person by Julie Winter, a 15-year-old from Portland, OR, who deeply misses her estranged older brother. Over time, we discover that Julie's brother had been a star swimmer in high school, failed to qualify for the Olympics, and may now be living in Berlin. Julie's parents don't speak of their son, but there is an overwhelming feeling of sadness in the family that profoundly affects Julie's development. Her sole friend, Erika, is steadfast, although obsessed with skater boys and at a loss about what to do about Julie's secretiveness. At the urging of a classmate to whom she is attracted, Julie joins the swim team. It's a chance to try to understand her brother, explore her sexuality, and develop her own identity. VERDICT Quiet and understated with a touch of melancholy, like a damp Northwest winter, this debut coming-of-age novel presents one person's truth in a way that may resonate with readers seeking a deeper understanding of sexual identity.—Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA
This debut reads like a journal of sophomore Julie Winter's quiet life in Portland, OR, in 1992. Her world is uncomplicated: browse the local craft fair and watch the skaters; go to school and cut insignificant captions for the yearbook; return home to avoid parental engagement; and try to forget her brother's absence. The only indication of her restlessness is an obsession with swim magazines at the local store. Until Alexis, the swim team captain, notices Julie's broad shoulders and connects her last name to her brother's legend. Finally, Julie moves from wallflower to social participant as she lands a spot on the swim team and begins to piece together her brother's history, starting with his childhood friend, Ben. The writing is simple, curious, and aloof, morphing with each new social expectation and teenage urge. Julie is a likable character whose story reads like half of the diary entries pulled from Julie's sophomore year as she struggles with understanding her sexuality, family dynamics, and her own identity. The book's incompleteness leaves readers to hope for Julie's happy ending in spite of ominous circumstances. Dryland is a special, realistic, and understated take on what it means to be a teenager in America. VERDICT For fans of A.S. King's Ask the Passengers (Little, Brown, 2012).—Jamie Lee Schombs. Regis Jesuit High School, Aurora, CO
A coming-of-age story about a young girl's growing awareness—of sexuality, loss, and family truths. Jaffe's debut novel begins quietly, like a swimmer's sleek dive into a pool. Pools and swimming feature prominently in this haunting story about a girl struggling in a family blighted by the departure, years earlier, of her older brother, who was a star competitive swimmer. Fifteen-year-old Julie lives with her parents, who are quiet and hands-off to the point of near-absence. When an older student, Alexis, suggests Julie join the swim team along with her best friend, Erika, Julie's response is ambivalent—she hasn't swum for a long time and warily defines swimming as her brother's world. Competitive swimming is clearly both Julie's fascination and some kind of nemesis, but she's encouraged by Alexis' interest, which is distractingly intense. A flirtatious and powerful attraction grows between the two girls, one Julie is quietly committed to acknowledging but Alexis, with a boyfriend and "popular girl" visibility, is less so. As Julie struggles to deal with her relationship with Alexis, to compete as a swimmer, to conduct herself appropriately at parties, and to be a good friend to the increasingly boy-crazy Erika, we relive the awkward agonies of adolescence, so well-sketched by Jaffe. With writerly acuteness, Jaffe focuses close attention on materials—the clutch of a too-tight swimsuit, the comfort of a warm sweatshirt—maybe because adolescence is so much about trying to fit inside external layers or because clothes can have outsize importance before real self-definition takes place. But Julie moves slowly and steadily toward that, finding the honest people she needs and eventually even finding her way to the truth about her brother. Moving sideways with its weight of secrets, this novel never strikes a false note.