The Starboard Sea
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The Starboard Sea

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3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  2,962 ratings  ·  499 reviews
Set against the backdrop of the 1987 stock market collapse, The Starboard Sea is an examination of the abuses of class privilege, the mutability of sexual desire, the thrill and risk of competitive sailing and the adult cost of teenage recklessness. It is a powerful and compelling novel about a young man navigating the depths of his emotional life, finding his moral center...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2012)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Rules of conduct are flexible for rich kids, and never more so than at Bellingham, a co-ed prep school for misbehaving teens who have been booted out of more prestigious academies. In her debut novel, Amber Dermont revisits the zeitgeist of the Reagan era through the eyes of Jason Prosper, a senior who lands at Bellingham in 1987 following the suicide of Cal, his best friend and sailing partner.

When Jason arrives at Bellingham, he is full of secrets and emotional baggage involving Cal's death, h...more
Laura
I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about this one. First, a disclaimer: I listened to the audio version of this one in the car, and while I love audio books as a rule, every now and then I encounter one read by a film or TV actor who really should NOT be employed as an audio reader. Just because they are a known name and I’m sure perfectly competent at their primary profession, that does not always translate to capturing the right tone in an audio book, or (especially) compe...more
Tim "The Enchanter"
My #1 Read for 2013


This book reminds me in many ways of Bridge to Terabithia, the book that started my love of reading. Don't get me wrong, The Starboard Sea is certainly more adult oriented and certainly not a children's book but there is something about a coming of age story that brings me back that first book that made such an impact on me.

The Starboard Sea is a melancholy and at times, a brooding story that gives us peak into the lives of rich and privileged kids at a boarding school. In...more
Joe
This is a debut novel and I believe that the author is gifted in that she can write. The book abounds with sailing explanations and references which are interesting and fascinating. The setting for the novel is a classic one-a boarding school. Visions of Catcher in the Rye, Dead Poet's Society, A Separate Peace come to mind. All the good stuff ended there. About 40 pages in, the book became a rock growing heavier with every page. My natural inclination was to throw it into the sea as a fitting t...more
Larry Hoffer
When I finish certain books, I'm sad that they're over but feel fulfilled by the chance to have read them. Amber Dermont's debut novel, The Starboard Sea, is one of those books. I couldn't stop myself from wanting to race through the entire book, but tried in vain to slow down as the end approached, because I wanted to prolong the story and see what came next for the characters.

It's 1987, just before the stock market crash. Jason Prosper is a rich high school senior from New York City, raised w...more
The Joy of Booking
It's hard to put into words the abundant compassion that Amber Dermont displays for her characters. But it's there, apparent, from the first paragraph to the final word.

The prep school world of Jason Prosper looks alternately like Cruel Intentions and your standard bildungsroman with a little murder mystery thrown in. But the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts. It's a treatise on class privilege. It's a discussion of race, particularly in the world of the wealthy. It's an honest lo...more
Zen Nana
I mentioned once before that my personal experience with New England boarding schools is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. That was in a review for The Twisted Thread, a young adult novel about a murder on one of these campuses. I liked it; didn’t love it. This book, The Starboard Sea, is light years beyond that one. I don’t think it’s promoted as YA, and although sophisticated teens might love it, the depth and breadth of this one is so far beyond the Pretty Little Liars genre that...more
Julie
From Jane Eyre to The Chocolate War to The Outsiders fiction has explored the hurts and the conceits of that most vulnerable and brutal of humans beings: the teenager. And from A Separate Peace to Never Let Me Go to the Harry Potter series, readers flock to the romance of that exclusive teenage club to which most of us never belonged: prep school. One of American literature's most iconic characters, Holden Caulfield - newly-expelled from Pencey Prep as The Catcher in the Rye opens - has been th...more
Richard (Bound & Determined...)
Though unable to relate to the overindulgent upbringing of the cast of characters, what I could relate to is the feelings they experienced. Feelings of invincibility, self-loathing, pride, indecision. Jason wears these like a banner waving in the wind. He internalizes them also, but bears them vibrantly for the reader to evaluate their own feelings against his story. To become so entwined with him that they are not two separate yet equal beings, but the reader and Jason become joined, their emot...more
John
Wow, this book wasn't good. Loved the premise of some secret between prep school kids, but the execution of the story was weak. The jacket says "set against the backdrop of the 1987 stock market collapse," but aside from mentioning how a few characters' fathers fared, it doesn't play a role at all. The author continually forces musical references into the story. An example of which is "Even with the music blaring, with Robert Smith imploring 'Oh, why can I, I, I, be you?' I heard Chester hit the...more
Madeline
Amber Dermont was my creative writing professor in college, so when I heard about this book I naturally had to go out and buy a copy immediately.

It's a good book. The story has a lot of elements that reminded me of The Secret History and Looking for Alaska, in that it takes place at an expensive prep school and deals with bullying, drugs, entitled rich kids who get away with anything, and a female love interest who's so clearly damaged she would have Alaska Young backing away in apprehension.

Th...more
T
It was a melancholy but engrossing story of a boy in a prep school for misfits. Plagued with regret, he befriends a troubled girl as they navigate the social pitfalls of the rich. The main character, Jason Prosper, even though from a wealthy family, struggles with his wealth and his role as he searches for himself and to solve a mystery that slowly develops. The book is well written and you feel like you know the main character, but his melancholy does weigh on the book. I loved the nautical ele...more
Roxanne
I don't know how to articulate what I think about this book.

It started very slow for me - the characters are unlikeable and over the top privileged. It's not scandalous, it is just boring and yucky. Or maybe some people are into that, I don't know. It's boarding school (which is probably why I got it from the library in the first place - love boarding school!) but it lacks the charm of other boarding school settings.

The most interesting piece of the story was the dead best friend - but we don't...more
Virginia
This book pissed me off. The author was pretentious, and, among other things, loved waffling on about sailing and how much she knew about rich kids in boarding school. I went to boarding school around the same time this book takes place, and I think she's pretty much full of crap. The only two things she got right were 1) all dorm rooms blast Bob Marley, and 2) boarding school is call just that because it is boring.

In addition, this book was one in which you can predict exactly what will occur o...more
Arna
An excellent read. Vividly written, and evocative. The Starboard Sea tells the story of Prosper, removed from one exclusive prep school for another - renowned for its acceptance of spoilt little rich kids, who won't be accepted anywhere else. Set in 1987, on the eve of the stockmarket crash, it tells the story of Prosper's acceptance of himself after a terrible tragedy, his forgiveness of himself for his no small part in it, and his attempts, sometimes misguided, to make good choices. With an em...more
Jenee Rager
Set in the late 1980's "The Starboard Sea" delicately balances the heartbreaking tale of Jason's senior year at prep school against tongue in cheek references to the over the top 80's social scene.

Jason stoically deals with bi-sexuality, suicide, racism, divorce, classism and even a murder as he navigates his way through his "second chance" prep school senior year. His parents, are non-entities in his upbringing and seem to think that there is no problem too big that they can't throw enough mon...more
Ruby and
Someone said this evoked The Great Gatsby - this is true and not true. It does leave a heavy sense of moral dissatisfaction, forcing you to rethink and rethink what happened. But the narrator/protagonist is complicit and guilty of at least his past transgressions.

This was a beautifully written book with vivid but not heavy-handed description of nautical/yachting passion that evokes one of my favorite books of all time, Kingston By Starlight (Christopher John Farley). But some of Jason's actions...more
Helene
Set against the stock market crash of the 80's and the entitled world of private boarding schools, 'The Starboard Sea' is a tale of one boy's struggle to understand himself and the world around him. Rather like a more literary version of Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History', this book is blessed with a young, introspective, and guilt-ridden narrator who wrestles with the decisions of his past and the loss of control he experiences in his present. Every one of Jason's actions is the product of his...more
Yvonne
It has been a while since I've read a book that in which I was both happy and sad for it to end.

Jason Prosper (and the name is fitting) is fighting his internal demons, first over the loss of his best friend Cal to a tragic suicide and then Aiden, the beautiful damaged redhead)from Bellingham Boarding School. Jason may seem dark and moody but really he has so many emotions and no one he feels safe to share them with, then there is quiet and reserved Chester, the only African American at the scho...more
Ciara
another novel i got sucked into reading thanks to reviews that made the plot sound all mysterious. it's all, "rich kid gets booted out of nice prep school & transfers to prep school for misfits, where he starts up a friendship with a troubled redheaded girl. but when she turns up dead, he has to confront painful memories. also, sailing." i was all, "wait, who died? why? did someone else die too?" this is the same impulse that sends a person down an hour-long rabbit hole in the CNN crime news...more
Ava Butzu
As long as we can agree that no one will ever be able to write the boarding school novel as well as Salinger (or, at least, the way that he wrote it), we may also agree that Dermont's book is well-worth the hype it has received for being a poignant depiction of East Coast snobbery at a second-tier school for second-chance rich kids. This book hooked me immediately with the narrator, Jason Prosper's, individuality and personal moral codes that earned him passage into, as Fitzgerald wrote in "The...more
Kate


I wanted to read this after listening to it discussed on The New York Times Book Review podcast and then it was chosen for one of my book club discussions for later in the year. This is a wonderfully written coming of age story involving athletic boys of privilege in a second tier New England boarding school. The main character, Jason Prosper has transferred to Bellingham Academy for his senior year after his roommate, Cal committed suicide. At Bellingham, he meets up with old friends who have...more
Andrienne
Compelling coming-of-age tale set in the 80s
I don't know much about the 80s (I identify more with the 90s), so I can't comment on how accurate the way kids thought and felt. All I know is that I got this book yesterday and finished it yesterday. It was like Dead Poets Society without the idealism. I don't like boats or preppy kids, but somehow there was something intriguing about the story that made me want to keep reading. Of course, halfway through, I can figure out what the mystery was all ab...more
Suzanne
I just put this book down, and I am reeling. Bravo to Amber Dermont for this beautiful, painful novel. The secrets of the privileged class may not necessarily be worse than those of the rest of us, but the course of action taken in their wakes is terrifying. I just don't feel that some of us have the luxury of focusing on our own greatness to the detriment of others. It scares me to imagine this world.
I won this through a Goodreads giveaway, but the greater prize was adding another book to my l...more
Nette
This book is being sold as adult fiction but it's Y/A at its lamest, an unholy brew of "Ordinary People," "Catcher in the Rye" and "Twilight" minus the occult. I knew I was in trouble in the first chapter, when the "tortured" gay rich kid says he likes rock climbing because "I always seemed to be draw to jagged places." Uh oh. The sailing stuff was pretty neat, but I quickly became distracted by the nonstop descriptions of people's hair: our hero's matted curls, our heroine's glorious red locks,...more
Tim Weed
I was captivated by this book. I found it compellingly readable, a horrifying story in many ways, but one redeemed by a protagonist who is basically a good guy, and certainly capable of learning and evolving as the story goes on. It's got an evocative atmosphere, and really captures something about what it was like to go to school in the 1980s. I think the overall theme or message is fascinating too, and original in my experience: There's no such thing as a clean break. You can't help but remain...more
James Cooper
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris
A heartbreaking account of adolescent rashness and its consequences; A Separate Peace for a new generation, trading World War II as a backdrop for the 1987 stock market crash; a beautifully written debut novel.

From page 308: "The tide was coming in, the waves gaining strength, but I felt buoyant, triumphant, even. I ducked my head underwater, held my breath, lengthening the keel of my body. Swimming closer to the rocks, I heard the waves and wind creating their own siren's song, the soft voices...more
Fred Daly
I'd been looking forward to this, and it mostly met expectations. It's about a boy at a new boarding school for his senior year in 1987-88. The sense of privilege that permeates the place is outrageous; there's a ton of casual cruelty that just made me shiver. The author makes some interesting choices with her protagonist -- he's like Holden Caulfield, but actually with more reason to be messed up. There's a lot about sailing, and my main criticism of the book is that the boats and the winds and...more
Pam Parker
Jason Prosper, with his lonely life of privilege, is not a character I will soon forget. Amber Dermont has depicted the late 80s, the New England prep school scene and sailing with brilliance, tenderness and when necessary, without tenderness. Some scenes will leave you bruised and thinking, in the way only the best literature can. Applause and thanks to Amber.

FYI - I'm not sure if this is "kosher" on Goodreads or not, but I have a post on my blog interviewing Amber, with an opportunity to win a...more
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“I used to believe having a good memory meant being able to remember everything in perfect detail. Now I believe having a good memory means being able to selectively forget. It's not what I'll remember, Jason," he said. "It's what I'll forget that matters.” 7 likes
“That's what Cal would tell you about me. "Jason's the nice one," he'd say. "He'd give you all his stars.” 6 likes
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