“One of the loveliest, most exquisitely beautiful books I’ve read in a very long time. . . . I didn’t just read the pages, I lived in them.” —Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places
A beautiful love story for fans of Jandy Nelson and Nicola Yoon: two teens find their way back to each other in a bookstore full of secrets and crushes, grief and hope—and letters hidden between the pages.
Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.
Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.
As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.
About the Author
CATH CROWLEY is an award-winning author of young adult novels, including Graffiti Moon and A Little Wanting Song. She lives, writes, and teaches creative writing in Melbourne, Australia. Visit her online at CathCrowley.com.au or find her on Twitter at @CathCrowley
Read an Excerpt
I open my eyes at midnight to the sound of the ocean and my brother’s breathing. It’s been ten months since Cal drowned, but the dreams still escape.
I’m confident in the dreams, liquid with the sea. I’m breathing underwater, eyes open and unstung by salt. I see fish, a school of silver--bellied moons thrumming beneath me. Cal appears, ready to identify, but these aren’t fish we know. “Mackerel,” he says, his words escaping in bubbles that I can hear. But the fish aren’t mackerel. Not bream, not any of the names we offer. They’re pure silver. “An unidentified species,” we say as we watch them fold and unfold around us. The water has the texture of sadness: salt and heat and memory.
Cal is in the room when I wake. He’s milky--skinned in the darkness, dripping of ocean. Impossible, but so real I smell salt and apple gum. So real I see the scar on his right foot—-a long--healed cut from glass on the beach. He’s talking about the dream fish: pure silver, unidentified, and gone.
The room is dark except for the moonlight. I feel through the air for the dream, but instead I touch the ears of Cal’s Labrador, Woof. He follows me everywhere since the funeral, a long line of black I can’t shake.
Usually, he sleeps on the end of my bed or in the doorway of my room, but for the last two nights he’s slept in front of my packed suitcases. I can’t take him with me. “You’re an ocean dog.” I run my finger along his nose. “You’d go mad in the city.”
There’s no sleeping after dreams of Cal, so I pull on clothes and climb out the window. The moon is three--quarters empty. The air is as hot as day. I mowed late yesterday, so I collect warm blades of grass on the soles of my feet as I move.
Woof and I get to the beach quickly. There’s almost nothing between our house and the water. There’s the road, a small stretch of scrub, and then dunes. The night is all tangle and smell. Salt and tree; smoke from a fire far up the beach. It’s all memory, too. Summer swimming and night walks, hunts for fig shells and blennies and starfish.
Farther, toward the lighthouse, there’s the spot where the beaked whale washed ashore: a giant at six meters, the right side of its face pressed against sand, its one visible eye open. There was a crowd of people around it later—-scientists and locals studying and staring. But first there was Mum and Cal and me in the early cold. I was nine years old, and with its long beak it looked to me like it was half sea creature, half bird. I wanted to study the deep water it had come from, the things it might have seen. Cal and I spent the day looking through Mum’s books and on the internet. The beaked whale is considered one of the least understood creatures of the sea, I copied into my journal. They live at depths so deep that the pressure could kill.
I don’t believe in ghosts or past lives or time travel or any of the strange things that Cal liked to read about. But every time I stand on the beach, I wish us back—-to the day of the whale, to any day before Cal died. With what I know, I’d be ready. I’d save him.
It’s late, but there’ll be people from school out, so I walk farther up to a quiet spot. I dig myself into the dunes, burying my legs past my hips, and stare at the water. It’s shot with moon, silver leaking all over the surface.
I’ve tried and tried to stop thinking about the day Cal drowned, but I can’t. I hear his words. I hear his footsteps through the sand. I see him diving: a long, frail arc that disappears into sea.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been here when I see Mum walking over the dunes, her feet struggling to find traction. She sits on one side of me and lights a cigarette, cupping it from the night.
She started smoking again after Cal died. I found her and Dad hiding behind the church after the funeral. “Don’t say it, Rach,” she said, and I stood between them and held their free hands, wishing Cal had been there to see the strangeness of our parents smoking. Dad’s a doctor; he’s been working with Doctors Without Borders since the divorce ten years ago. Mum’s a science teacher at the high school in Sea Ridge. They’ve called cigarettes “death sticks” all our lives.
We watch the water without talking for a while. I don’t know how Mum feels about the ocean now. She doesn’t go in anymore, but we meet at the edge every night. She taught Cal and me how to swim, how to cup water, how to push it back and control its flow. She told us not to be afraid. “Don’t ever swim alone, though,” she said, and apart from that one time, we didn’t.
“So, you’re packed?” Mum asks, and I nod.
Tomorrow I leave Sea Ridge for Gracetown, a suburb of Melbourne, the city where my aunt Rose lives. I’ve failed Year 12, and since I don’t plan to try again next year, Rose has gotten me a job in the café at St. Albert’s Hospital, where she’s a doctor.
Cal and I grew up in Gracetown. We moved to Sea Ridge three years ago, when I was fifteen. Gran needed help, and we didn’t want her to sell the house or go into a home. We’d stayed with her every holiday, summer and winter, since we were born, so Sea Ridge was like our second home.
“Year 12 isn’t everything,” Mum says.
Maybe it’s not, but before Cal died, I had my life planned. I got A’s, I was happy. I sat on this exact spot last year and told Cal I wanted to be an ichthyologist, studying fish like the Chimaera, which evolved 400 million years ago. We both tried to imagine a world that went that far back.
“I feel like the universe cheated Cal and cheated us along with him,” I say now.
Before Cal died, Mum would have explained calmly and logically that the universe was all existing matter and space—-10 billion light--years in diameter, consisting of galaxies and the solar system, stars, and the planets. All of which simply do not have the capacity to cheat a person of anything.
Tonight she lights another cigarette. “It did,” she says, and blows smoke at the stars.
I’m lying next to Amy in the self--help section of Howling Books. We’re alone. It’s ten on Thursday night and I’ll be honest: I’m currently mismanaging a hard--on. The mismanagement isn’t entirely my fault. My body’s working on muscle memory.
Usually, this is the time and place that Amy and I kiss. This is the time our hearts breathe hard and she lies next to me, warm--skinned and funny, making jokes about the state of my hair. It’s the time we talk about the future, which was, if you’d asked me fifteen minutes ago, completely bought and paid for.
“I want to break up,” she says, and at first I think she’s joking. Less than twelve hours ago, we were kissing in this exact spot. We were doing quite a few other very nice things too, I think, as she elbows me.
“Henry?” she says. “Say something.”
“Say what?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Whatever you’re thinking.”
“I’m thinking this is entirely unexpected and a little bit shit.” I struggle into an upright position. “We bought plane tickets. Nonrefundable, nonexchangeable plane tickets for the twelfth of March.”
“I know, Henry,” she says.
“We leave in ten weeks.”
“Calm down,” she says, as though I’m the one who’s sounding unreasonable. Maybe I am sounding unreasonable, but that’s because I spent the last dollar of my savings buying a six--stop--around--the--world ticket. Singapore, Berlin, Rome, London, Helsinki, New York. “We bought travel insurance and got our passports. We bought travel guides and those little blow pillows for the plane.”
She bites the right side of her lip, and I try very hard, unsuccessfully, not to think about kissing her. “You said you loved me.”
“I do love you,” Amy says, and then she starts italicizing love into all its depressing definitions. “I just don’t think I’m in love with you. I tried, though. I tried really hard.”
These must be the most depressing words in the history of love. I tried really hard to love you. I’m not certain of a lot of things, but I’m certain of this—-when I’m old and I have dementia, when my brain has aged to smoke, these are words I will remember.
I should ask her to leave. I should say, “You know what? I don’t want to see the homelands of William Shakespeare and Mary Shelley and Friedrich Nietzsche and Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson and Karen Russell with a girl who’s trying very hard to love me.” I should say, “If you don’t love me, then I don’t love you.”
But fuck it I do love her and I would like to see those homelands with her and I’m an optimist without a whole lot of dignity, so what I say is “If you change your mind, you know where I live.” In my defense she’s crying and we’ve been friends since Year 9 and in my book that counts for a lot.
There’s no other way for her to leave but to climb over me, because the self--help section is in a small room at the back of the shop that most people think is a closet, but it’s just big enough for two people to lie side by side with no space to spare.
We do this weird fumbling dance as she gets up, a soft un-tangling wrestle. We kiss before she goes. It’s a long kiss, a good kiss, and while it’s happening I let myself hope that maybe, just maybe, it’s so great that it’s changed her mind.
But after it’s done, she stands and straightens her skirt and gives me a small, sad wave. And then she leaves me here, lying on the floor of the self--help section—-a dead man. One with a non-refundable, nonexchangeable ticket to the world.
Eventually I crawl out of the self--help section and make my way to the fiction couch: the long blue velvet daybed that sits in front of the classics shelves. I rarely sleep upstairs anymore. I like the rustle and dust of the bookshop at night.
I lie here thinking about Amy. I retrace last week, running back through the hours, trying to work out what changed between us. But I’m the same person I was seven days ago. I’m the same person I was the week before and the week before that. I’m the same person I was all the way back to the morning we met.
Amy came from a private school across the river and moved to our side of town when her dad’s accounting firm downsized and he had to shift jobs. They lived in one of the new apartments that had gone up on Green Street, not far from the school. From Amy’s new bedroom, she could hear traffic and the flush of next--door’s toilet. From her old bedroom, she could hear birds. These things I learned before we dated, in snippets of conversations that happened on the way home from parties, in English, in detention, in the library, when she stopped by the bookshop on Sunday afternoons.
The first day I met her I knew surface things—-she had long red hair, green eyes, and fair skin. She smelled flowery. She wore long socks. She sat at an empty table and waited for people to sit next to her. They did.
I sat in front and listened to the conversation between her and Aaliyah. “Who’s that?” I heard Amy ask. “Henry,” Aaliyah told her. “Funny. Smart. Cute.”
I waved above my head at them, without turning around.
“An eavesdropper,” Amy added, gently kicking the back of my chair.
We didn’t officially get together till the middle of Year 12, but the first time we kissed was in Year 9. It happened after our English class had been studying Ray Bradbury’s short stories. After we read “The Last Night of the World,” the idea caught on that we should all spend a night pretending it was our last and do the things we’d do if an apocalypse was heading our way.
Our English teacher heard what we were planning, and the principal told us we couldn’t do it. It sounded dangerous. Our plans went underground. Flyers appeared in lockers that the date was set for the twelfth of December, the last day of school before summer vacation. There’d be a party that night at Justin Kent’s house. make plans, the flyers told us. the end is near.
I stayed up late on the night before the end, trying to write the perfect letter to Amy, a letter that’d convince her to spend her last night in the world with me. I walked into school with it in my top pocket, knowing I probably wouldn’t give it to her but hoping that I would. My plan was to spend the last night with friends unless some miracle happened and Amy became a possibility.
No one listened in class that day. There were small signs all over the place that things were coming to an end. In our homeroom, someone had turned all the notices on the board upside down. Someone had carved the end into the back of the boys’ toilet door. I opened my locker at lunch to find a piece of paper with one day to go written on it, and I realized that no one had bothered working out the finer details of when the world would actually end: Midnight? Sunrise?
I was thinking about that when I turned and saw Amy standing next to me. The note was in my pocket, but I couldn’t give it to her. Instead, I held up the paper—-one day to go—-and asked her what she was planning to do with her last night. She stared at me for a while and eventually said, “I thought you might ask me to spend it with you.” There were several people in the corridor listening, and all of us, me included, couldn’t believe my luck.
To give myself maximum living time, I decided that the world should end when the sun came up—-five fifty in the morning, according to the Weather Channel.
We met at the bookshop at five fifty in the afternoon to make it an even twelve hours, and from there we walked to Shanghai Dumplings for dinner. Around nine we went to Justin’s party, and when it got too loud, we walked to the Benito Building and took the elevator to the top—-the highest place in Gracetown.
Excerpted from "Words in Deep Blue"
Copyright © 2017 Cath Crowley.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Children's Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
ever since i read the book description, this has been one of the books that i'm really looking forward to. that book description reminds me of DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES, which i truly adore, and in my opinion, any book lover's dream romance. my excitement escalated when the reviews so far has been really really really good! I have to admit though, in the beginning of the book, I wasn't into it. the book just made me feel heavy... then i realized, if the start of the book already makes me feel something, what more if I read and finish the whole thing! the emotions are so raw and deep, you can't help but to immerse yourself with the characters' feelings and words. speaking of characters, they are so imperfect! which makes you want to read on what happens to them next. every name/character mentioned in this book has a connection that is deeply rooted to the main characters. the minor characters just don't seem to be just minor characters and this is the only book that i know that did that and i love it! the subplots are very endearing too. we are not just watching Henry and Rachel's story bloom, but also the other characters' stories too. i also love that the author referenced books that are easily known. she definitely researched and thought about her reader's knowledge of books whether it be little or a lot. i have to admit, it took me awhile to realize that the setting if the book is in Australia. i had to google hearing Australian english and accents so I can imagine the voice of the book. and i thought it was just a good way to experience a book. i was willing myself to learn the culture and the place. another thing i "experienced" from the book was the words, the quotes, and their value to the characters and also to the readers. i swear, i had to keep my phone ready in case i have a quote that i like! this book wasn't just a read. this book was an experience! and i loved every bit of it. i have so many positives about this book, that i don't know how to generalize. so I'll just end my review here. *i won this ARC in a giveaway
Awesome book, really recommend!
This book. Just wow did I really like this one. Especially the characters Rachel and Henry and the other side characters. Also the feels was strong with this one. Not only did I like the writing style, pace, characters but of course the setting. I mean most of the story takes place at Howling Books. I also liked the different letters exchanged at the Letter Library. A pretty good read. One of my favorites that I read so far this year.
This book was much better than I expected. Very well written and I loved the characters. Great as a quick summer read.
I really love books about books, so when I heard that this book centered around a bookstore I just had to read it. I was expecting cute and fluffy by the cover, but I was quickly reminded why you should never judge a book by its cover. This book is incredibly heart-wrenching and intense. I loved the friendships and the letters part of the bookstore was very unique and interesting. I wish we had bookstores that did that! Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Can't lie and say I added this to my TBR because of the synopsis. I added it because of the gorgeous cover. And then when everyone started talking about it, I decided I should try it. Rachel left her hometown and left only a letter behind. That letter said she loved her best friend. Now she's returned to her hometown with so many more secrets than she left with. I've seen so many glowing 5 star reviews on this book, but unfortunately it just wasn't for me. I'm a huge plot based reader, so when there's not really a real reason for something happening in the book, it doesn't appeal to me. And that's exactly what happened here. Every setting it featured was beautiful, but I just couldn't get with the lack of them really doing anything. To be honest they did the same things the entire book, with a few different things sprinkled in-between here and there. I also couldn't really connect with one of the characters. Once all the answers started coming out, I just knew someone would say something. But they kept hiding that one key fact. I know everyone handles grief in their own way, but this had the potential to really hurt someone. And the fact that they didn’t think about this until the very end didn’t sit well with me. And because of that, the ending just didn’t seem believable to me. There should have been something like sadness, anger, and other emotions present I’m sure. All she did was cry. There was no huge blow-up or anything. I just don’t feel that was believable. Maybe she didn’t realize they were hiding from her, but I guess knowing as the reader just bothered me more than it should have. However, I did like the writing style. I finished this book in about 24 hours. It was really the only thing that kept me reading. I found myself lost in her words. Fitting since the setting is a bookshop. I was lost in the words of the story and the picture she painted of Henry and Rachel and their love for words. Looking at all the reviews, I can see I’m the Black Sheep. I hate it, but it always happens sometimes. I wasn’t the biggest fan overall, but I can see where everyone else’s appeal came from. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the book for me.
I loved the idea of the bookstore in this novel. Henry’s parents own a secondhand bookstore and I could see Henry owing that bookstore one day. I could see the regulars coming in, talking and browsing during their day. I can see the garden with the tables covered with games, the door off to the side leading into the bakery in case you need something to drink or eat while you are reading. I could see the couch located in the fictional section that Henry’s sleeps on at night surrounded by novels, stories read and unread. It’s the Letter Library that I find interesting. Extra copies of novels, set off into their own special section here in this bookstore, where individuals can write notes, circle words or write letters to others. Oh, the stories these novels would tell. I was sad when Henry’s parents talked about splitting up. It’s devastating to the family structure but what about the life of the bookstore. His father lived and breathed that bookstore while his mother ran the numbers, she knew if the bookstore was actually on life support or not. Everyone in the family has a vote in the matter and his sister will vote the same as Henry. Henry loves the bookstore but then there is Rachel. Now back in Henry’s life, Rachel is shedding new information that should have been said years ago. It gets complicated when I felt it really was plain and simple but individuals are trying too hard, communication is lost, and some individuals cannot be trusted. It’s a cute novel about loss and romance.
I have not read something so angsty since Jenny Han’s series, THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY. I only started it one morning and was finished with it by the time I was coming home on my train. It was a total of 2-3 hours before this book was finished and I was a mess of angsty and emotional feels. This is how you write a contemporary love story and this is how you make it moving. I am so ashamed to have waited so long to read this despite the fact that it will be released again in the U.S. in June so I will be clamoring for Penguin to release it. This is a story of best friends, long lost letters, loss, and missed opportunities. I loved nearly 99% of it, but I kept wondering just how stupid Henry and Rachel could be - if there could really be unlimited moments that pushed them to think and feel a certain way and my answer always came back as yes, there could be. It infuriated me the way that long trilogies happen and two people you know should be together are dancing around each other until the very last book and it isn’t even until the last fourth of the book that it happens and you are left so unsatisfied because you wanted more fluff and more love and more everything that is good between these two characters. I kept getting angry at Henry for being so confused and so narrow-minded. I kept yelling at Rachel because I thought she deserved better. But by the end, I found them so likable - so ordinary and so very real. This is a story that I can read over and over and feel so fulfilled by the end. And far more, this was a book about BOOKS. I was so pleased to see how much they were involved and not just…taking place in a book store. It made me even more fond of this book and made me wish more crossings of fate happened this way - that you could find your soulmate in the shelves of your favorite books and write love letters in the margins while underlining the words that made you want all those things in the first place. I need to read more of Cath Crowley’s books because if her other books are as poetic as this one, then I have been missing out.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley is a YA novel. There is no dystopian story, no adventure, no exciting mystery or even a teen runaway story. Words of Deep Blue is a contemporary novel of a teen age girl who tries to overcome her grief over the death of her brother, and learn to carry on with her life; it is also a story of how words and books can play a large part of lives. Rachel Sweetie returns to the town she left 3 years before, where her friends Lola and Henry still live. Rachel left town with her family, having left a love letter in a book for Henry to find; but he never saw the letter and Rachel assumed he wasn’t interested. So when she returns home, she hides her grief over the drowning death of her brother Cal, and tells no one of his death. She takes a job working at the Howling Book store, where Henry helps his father run the story. Henry always considered Rachel his best friend, but could never understand why she stopped writing to him during those three years. I enjoyed Rachel’s character; her grief and pain made her a better and stronger person, and in time she accepts what happened and opens up to her friends. Rachel also knows that Henry will never get over his spoiled self centered girlfriend, Amy. I did not like Henry, as he was so blind as to always thinking Amy cares about him, even when she dumps him, and does not even see that Rachel is not only his friend, but someone who truly loves him. What follows is a slow built rekindling of a friendship that was lost. It was nice that Henry and Rachel would spend so much time together in the book store, many times spending the night reading and looking at letters left behind by others. The words spoken were what slowly brings them together, at first as friends, and later when Henry finally realizes that everything he always wanted was right in front him. As the story unfolds, Rachel comes to terms with Cal’s death, shares her grief with her friends and family, which also brings her closer to Henry. There were some other background stories, especially Henry’s sister, George, who leaves letters to an unknown suitor; which later is a surprise. Words in Deep Blue was a different type of read for a YA novel, but it is truly is for everyone. This book was emotional, uplifting, touching and at times humorous. Rachel, and even Henry were well developed characters, as well as many of the secondary characters. This was a nice story well written by Cath Crowley.
Rachel and Henry used to be best friends, but Rachel wanted them to be more. She wrote a letter and put it in one of Henry's books just before she moved to another town, but he never replied. She was heartbroken and their friendship suffered because of it. When Rachel loses her brother she's so depressed she needs a distraction. That's why she's back in the city, where she will work at the bookshop owned by Henry's family. That means Henry will be back in her life and Rachel doesn't know is she's happy with it, but she's been through worse. Henry is glad he has his friend back, but something is bothering Rachel. She isn't the girl he used to know. Fortunately one part of their friendship has remained, leaving letters in the bookshop's books. Henry has some tough choices to make, something he should have done years ago and Rachel is at the center of it. Will they be able to restore their friendship and be happy in each other's company again or will their second chance to connect make things even worse? Words in Deep Blue is a beautiful moving story. Rachel is sad because she misses her brother and my heart ached for everything she's lost. They used to be close and the unfairness of the situation brought tears to my eyes. Even though Rachel is grieving she's trying to keep going and I admired her for that. She needs a friend and while Henry can cheer her up, he's also a bit slow when it comes to recognizing his own feelings. He gives Rachel a chance to see some light in her future again and that was amazing to witness. However, Henry's love life is incredibly complex and I couldn't wait to find out where that would lead. I liked the large number of emotional layers and think Cath Crowley's descriptions of them are spot on. Words in Deep Blue has a fantastic main setting, a bookshop. It's a special place and I loved it immediately. I especially enjoyed reading the letters that are being left by various people inside their favorite books. It's a meaningful and charming part of the story. Cath Crowley is a skilled writer. She uses fantastic words and I enjoyed every sentence of Words in Deep Blue. She's also great at influencing the atmosphere and she doesn't need big gestures to change the moods of her main characters, she's wonderfully subtle. Words in Deep Blue is a brilliant story, I highly recommend this impressive book.
I fell in love with Cath's words with Graffiti Moon and I knew I wanted to read this before I knew what it was about. I loved Rachel and Henry. They're both going through so much and while they rate differently on the spectrum of bad, to each of them, it's catastrophic. I loved their dynamic, their banter, their desperation to help the other when they weren't doing well themselves. And of course there are a small cast of characters who are all excellent and add a layer and texture to the story. The plot is engaging, but it's the prose that did it for me. The topic of books and words and the passion the characters feel for them, it was electric. I was absolutely captivated and as always, I want to roll around in Cath's words. Overall, this felt like a love letter. It was hopeful and heartbreaking and at times the grief was palpable. I was shaking my first to the sky in one page and hugging my arc in the other. I will forever read this book. **Huge thanks to Knopf and NetGalley for providing the arc free of charge**