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The Last True Poets of the Sea

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The Larkin family isn't just lucky—they persevere. At least that's what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn't drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.
But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can't stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.
Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family's missing piece—the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lying hidden in a watery grave for over a century.
She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes—and the bridges she builds along the way—may be the start of something like survival.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2019

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Julia Drake

4 books122 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,643 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews156k followers
February 18, 2021
find this review & others on my blog

Reading The Last Poets of the Sea felt comforting in a way that defies words. It felt like a hug, if a hug were a book. It lingered in the air, like summer thunder, long after I turned the last page, beaming calmly into all my darkest corners, and the thought of it still warms me, like a candle flame held safe against the whipping sea wind.

Violet Larkin’s family lived in a state where the ground always seemed to be slipping from beneath their feet, with no way back to someplace solid. Violet was burning bridges just for the joy of seeing the flames take them, numbing herself with sex and alcohol, trying not to look too closely at the unrelenting winnowing of her parents and the distance growing between her and her brother, Sam. But after Sam’s suicide attempt, they all lost the thread of themselves.

Now exiled to the small seaside town of Lyric, Maine, to live quietly with her uncle, Violet is left to contemplate the sad, parallel tracks of their lives and wonder at how they all crossed into this country from which it seems they couldn’t return. While volunteering at the local aquarium, Violet meets Orion who introduces her to his friends, and to Liv who has a bright curiosity about Violet’s ancestors, the much-celebrated founders of the town. Legend spoke of Violet’s great-great-great-grandmother, the lone survivor of a shipwreck that happened near the shores of Lyric but which was never found.

An echo of old feeling, numb with disuse, stirs in Violet’s chest who remembers her brother’s interest in their history, and she clings to the memory, molding it into a spear of decisiveness:

If I could find our wreck, maybe I could start to put us back together again. I’d find the wreck, and I’d make us whole.”

The Last Poets of the Sea has a presence that wore on me, nagging at my attention until I had to forgo what I was doing and read instead. So, you may want to carve out some reading time before you pick up this book. If you are anything like me, your eyes will be reluctant to look anywhere else, and you won’t want to get up from your chair for some time, perhaps even until you've reached the last page.

The story is engrossing, the dialogue is some of the best I’ve ever read, and the author is remarkably skilled at conveying deep emotion through attention to language’s flow and cadence, but it’s her ability to render the interior lives of her characters that kept me held in the pages’ thrall. They are funny, cantankerous, and affecting, and despite their faults—which are numerous and spectacular—they tugged at my hearts’ seams.

This is a book that's both intensely specific and strangely universal, with hard questions strung all the way through it: about what sets us on paths that we oftentimes feel helpless to depart and the distances between people who were both impossibly near and hopelessly far. Violet’s story felt familiar, like slipping into well-worn shoes, and I sometimes felt strangely rubbed raw while reading it, wide open and exposed, a house with all its doors thrown open.

Violet is just about as lonely and wretched as any teenager has ever been, which is very lonely and wretched indeed. She was the girl who cast a charmed theatrical light about her, always drawn to the seduction of the rash and reckless act, who didn’t really know that “looking grown-up” didn’t mean she was, and to whom the idea of “being nice to herself” was as unfamiliar as a new language. In Lyric, Violet chose to be quiet and removed, a world unto herself pulled tight and secretive. She decided to shave her hair, turn off the “romance channel”, and be self-erased, blanked-out. But Violet clings to the mystery of her ancestors, returning again and again to the same fragments and trying to fit them together like shards of some broken, precious thing, hoping that the past will spell out knowledge and something will shake free inside her and drift away like ash.

But her brother’s absence on this quest had a stinging weight like ocean waves, and left a hole behind like a bullet.

The relationship between Violet and her brother, Sam, made me tear up at times. Violet’s heart hurt for the wanting of that old love between them, that easy camaraderie that had faded between them, like pen pals whose letters get shorter each month. She was sorry for always casting the acid brewing on her lips, uncaring that it bloomed pain in its wake. For not realizing sooner that her suffering was not unique, and that the people she loves the most have their own tragedies to deal with. The healing that finally arrives is fraught with pain, but no less welcome and extraordinary for it.

Unlike many narratives about mental illness, this is not at all one of miraculous recovery or a smile-and-bear-it mentality. “Survival is its own quest,” writes Drake. “We need to choose to survive over and over again.” The novel's hope-laced message is that survival is a long, arduous process with no definite finish line. On that journey, sometimes it may seem—in all clear-headed and articulate despair—that the world and everything in it is insufferably and permanently fucked. But we must never forget that so much life happens between those wounds. Once, you could not find an ocean wide enough to place between Violet and her family, but they’re listing toward each other like a lost ship toward a lighthouse.

I also relished the fierce bonds of friendship created throughout the story. And the wonderful Twelfth-Night-inspired sapphic romance. Liv and Violet both circled each other tentatively, as if the other person was a fire whose warmth they craved but knew might burn. The love between them was both simple and complicated—in the way of the best love stories—and I enjoyed reading about the burning, luminous thing blooming between them.

Romeo and Juliet once had a conversation that became a sonnet. Alone, they were good; together, they were art. I always wondered what that would be like—to be so in sync with someone, you create.

Highly recommended!

If you liked this review please consider leaving me a tip on ko-fi !

Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.4k followers
September 18, 2019
I'm gonna sound so cheesy, but this book rooted itself into my heart and I will never, ever let it go. From the friendships to the sibling bonds to the queerness, this was just everything I've ever wanted in a book and more. It’s set in a small seaside town in Maine and was like a mix of Summer of Salt, Wild Blue Wonder, and everything Ashley Herring Blake has ever written and I JUST LOVED IT SO MUCH AND MY HEART IS SO FUCKING FULL. Brb while I go pre-order my brother a copy and cry bc FEELINGS 😭

TW: suicide, disordered eating, alcohol abuse, the open ocean
Profile Image for Madeline Miller.
Author 15 books64.4k followers
November 16, 2018
A wonderful book--beautiful, smart, witty, with a deeply thoughtful heart. And inspired by Twelfth Night! Love it.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,509 reviews29.5k followers
November 2, 2019
Holy hell, I loved this book so much.

Violet and Sam Larkin’s great-great-great-grandmother Fidelia survived a shipwreck off the coast of Maine. Her arrival in the town of Lyric, and her subsequent marriage, are the stuff of legend. And Fidelia’s story has always made the family believe they’re survivors.

"I didn't even have a driver's license, but I was an expert in the art of catastrophe."

Yet as Violet becomes wilder, experimenting with drugs and sex, Sam’s emotional problems become more serious, and it’s clear neither is surviving that well. When Sam tries to take his own life, and Violet responds with inappropriate behavior, their parents send her to Lyric for the summer, the place where their mother grew up and Violet and Sam’s family used to vacation.

Violet’s goal is to become more invisible, which is hard to do when you’re beautiful, musical, and nearly six feet tall. Yet she shaves her head and tries to take up as little space as possible. Working at the town’s struggling aquarium and trying to find the courage to write to Sam, she meets a circle of friends who make her want to open up, even just a little. Among them is Liv, an amateur history buff who has been obsessed with the mysteries behind Fidelia’s shipwreck and what transpired when she came to town and met the man who would be Violet and Sam's great-great-great-grandfather.

Inspired by the desire to help Sam, Violet gets drawn into Liv’s obsession, and they decide to find the shipwreck despite the fact it never was found. Along the way Violet will realize where her heart lies and understand how worthy she is, and how much she needs to be seen.

This book was so beautiful and emotional and I loved it from the start. There’s so much to this story—the need to be loved and understood, family dysfunction, emotional issues, sexuality—and Julia Drake has done such a terrific job with it. Her writing is imbued with such rich emotion, her prose is poetic at times, and her characters are fascinating—they're layered, complex, and not entirely sympathetic.

While reading this book I was reminded of two of my favorite YA books, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley. Both of those books, as well as this one, mesmerized me with their power, left me emotional, and touched my heart in an unforgettable way.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for solanne.
193 reviews484 followers
June 2, 2021
this book smells of hot summer nights and saltwater tides, its scent clinging to me long after I turned the last page


There’s a special kind of ache in my heart reserved for stories that snag on family, stories that map out relationships in all their bruising brilliance. Reading this felt a little as if someone had pried open my heart and said oh. This. This I understand.

Violet is determined to see herself disappear after her brother’s suicide attempt. Once the center of attention in every room, she now craves nothing but invisibility, shearing off her hair, concealing herself behind baggy clothing, forcing herself to shrink to the size of a pinprick until no longer has the space to breathe. She is then sent to Lyric, a seaside town tangled up in her family’s history, and begins her search for her ancestor’s lost shipwreck, desperate to make amends with her past in a time when the future seems so uncertain.

Name one time in recorded history that I haven't fallen prey to the sweet lull of the ocean or the enigmatic atmosphere shrouding old familial secrets. Threads of mystery thrum through this story’s core, a dazzling light tangled up in all the messiness, the heartache, the sorrow, tugging the characters close. And the writing? God, I couldn't do it justice if I tried. The best way I can think to describe it would be ‘poetic’, rather in an understated, hard-hitting manner. Frankly, I think it’s the kind of thing you may just have to experience for yourself:

"There is some strange feeling in the pit of her stomach — what is that? Longing? This feeling is like: nostalgia for something that didn't happen. No — nostalgia for something that could've happened."

What really makes this book marvellous though is the characters. Watching Violet grapple with her self-loathing is so unbearably lonely. Her sadness is deep enough to swallow you whole, a longing for her brother, for her previous ease, for wholeness. The Last True Poets of the Sea touched some of the most vulnerable parts of my heart — the weight of isolation and wretched self-hatred inescapable, but so, the fear that, no matter how hard you try, you can never be enough.

But I think that ultimately, just as Violet comes to learn, sorrow and fear do not exclude strength. Because this isn’t a story solely confined to sadness; perhaps it is a story sculpted by loss and hurt, but, above all else, its very foundation has been built of love, resolute enough to withstand the most violent of wrecks. In the end, this is a story about connection. Violet’s relationship with her family is complicated, because people are complicated. Messy situations don't always have a clear-cut answer. And that’s okay.

Perhaps my very favourite thing about The Last True Poets of the Sea is the way in which Violet and Sam’s — Violet’s brother — relationship is portrayed. While neither are mentioned on-page to have a diagnosis, it’s heavily implied that Sam is autistic and that Violet wrestles with BPD. The premise had made me initially hesitant to pick up the book; I am so sick and fucking tired of side characters’ mental illnesses or disorders — be it those of loved ones or strangers — being used as plot points to bolster a main character’s arc. But while Sam’ suicide attempt may be what led to the family’s fallout, his story is treated with just as much care and dignity as Violet’s.

To be honest, a lot of the sibling’s dynamic hit really close to home which I think is why I found their interactions to be so poignant. They are both hurting, missing the other’s familiarity and a time when things weren’t so complicated. But the two learn to bridge the chasm between them, even though it requires vulnerability they aren’t quite comfortable offering up. When I tell you I sobbed I mean it in the truest sense possible.

The friendships found throughout this novel were equally exquisite. I adored following the friend group as they searched for the wreck, each in pursuit of comfort and healing, each wholly imperfect. Not to mention the sapphic chemistry. Liv and Violet’s carefully explored relationship was oh so sweet in its complexity. You all know I’m a sucker for yearning but, wow. Their romance was absolutely unparalleled. It was big enough to shape the very world.

"Liv pulled away and tectonic plates moved beneath us; under miles of ocean, the seafloor split."

If there is just one thing I took from this book, it would be this: we make up our own futures, each choice a nearly imperceptible thread creating the patchwork that is our lives. And, fuck, it isn’t always easy. But when it isn’t, take it one day at a time. And if you can’t fathom that, try an hour, a single moment. If you can’t be good, learn to embrace ‘okay’, at least for now. Growing pains hurt, but therein lies their essentiality. Take in the brilliant fiascos and the imperfect gestures and the fuckups alongside everything else. Because isn’t that exactly what life is about? As the author so aptly writes:

"No one thing could fix us, because no one thing was wrong. The fixing would be in keeping going, in trying. Survival was its own quest: we needed to choose to survive over and over again. We had to wash up on shore, and we had to choose to keep washing up every single day. We had to let the survival accrue, pebble after pebble, building a beach from a million tiny moments until suddenly we stopped, looked around, and thought on a Saturday in Maine, I'm glad we're here."

> 5 stars

— representation: bisexual MC, sapphic LI, neurodiverse side character (unspecified)
— content warnings: suicide, disordered eating, loss of loved one, panic attacks, underage use of drugs/alcohol
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
967 reviews849 followers
January 26, 2020
This was one of the most amazing YA contemporary novels that I have ever read.

Writing: ★★★★★
Humor: ★★★★★
Heartstrings: ★★★★★

The Last True Poets of the Sea hit me hard, knocked me out, and left me in the dust of its emotional magnificence. Like the coastal Maine, aquatic version of Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere, I couldn't stop the feelings. Talk about an unputdownable one-day read.

Violet Larkin grew up in a family of shipwrecks. Her great-great grandmother Fidelia was the sole survivor of a shipwreck off of Maine's coast in the 1800s, and the family has become known for disaster—and perseverance—ever since. They leave disaster in their wake, but they never get knocked down. Until this summer.

After her younger brother, Sam, tries to take his own life, Violet's family shuts down to crisis mode. Party-hard, reckless Violet is sent to remote Maine to live on the family's ancestral home with her Uncle, Sam is sent to a rehab facility in Vermont, and their parents attempt to tread water at home in New York City.

Violet's not excited to be in Maine, and she's unwilling to process the events that led to her arrival. To pass the time, Violet joins the local aquarium as a part-time volunteer—where she meets the best-looking boy she's ever seen: Orion.

This meet-cute isn't all that it seems, however, as Orion's had a crush on his long-time best friend for years. Orion invites Violet into the fold of his friend group, where Violet meets his crush, Liv. Violet discovers that maybe Orion's on to something—Liv is an entrancing bay filled with hidden rocks, and Violet can't seem to pull her ship out of the tide leading her to the rocky shore.

Will she do what she does best and create a shipwreck disaster, or will she discover what it means to be herself?

Add in a quest to find Fidelia's sunken ship, some ridiculously poignantly and quietly funny scenes from a bisexual love triangle, and a few moments worth more than a few tears, and you have one hell of an amazing debut. This will remain one of my all-time favorites.

Thank you to Disney Book Group via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,072 reviews51.3k followers
December 26, 2021
full review to come in a vlog but... this didn't do it for me. i thought this was going to be something different than it was which really is just a me problem. but i expected something really lush and lyrical, kinda like strange grace or the raven boys. but this felt more like a jenn bennett book. which isn't bad, but wasn't what i was wanting.
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,624 followers
May 23, 2020

Many thanks to Disney Hyperion for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

[10/01/2019] - DNF at pg. 127. I am temporarily DNF-ing this. When the audio comes out, I'll try that and see if it snags my attention more than the physical copy. I chose to rate this four stars because I want to convey that this book is not bad. I'm just not feeling it right now. I'll try again later.


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-Madeline Miller

guys, madeline miller loved it so obviously it's amazing

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Profile Image for Renee Godding.
640 reviews633 followers
July 31, 2022
Read for O.W.L.s Magical Readathon 2020, Defence Against the Dark Arts. Grindylow; a book with a coastal setting.

5/5 stars

A hypothesis:
Either my 2020-favourites list is going to be 60% books I read in April, or this year might just end up being the best readingyear I've ever had. Either one is fine with me.
Fact is that I've adored almost everything I've read sofar this month, and this was no different. Incredible story, beautifully written, pulled on my heartstrings and hit all of my favourite checkboxes (sea-setting, friendship, grief, comming of age, etc.).
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews10.7k followers
December 17, 2022

Violet Larkin's life is out of control. Even though she realizes she isn't making good choices, she can't stop.

Urges hit her, the New York City nights grow longer, the drinking more abundant and the sex more risky.

When her younger brother, Sam, attempts to take his own life, Violet even acts out while at the hospital.

The situation is overwhelming and scary, but despite the serious nature of the circumstances, when those stirrings hit, she acts on them.

Her parents catch her with a much older man at the hospital vending machines and know that something must change, or they risk losing both of their children.

While her brother Sam heads off to Vermont for treatment, Violet is sent to Lyric, Maine, to stay with her Uncle.

Luckily, Violet doesn't see Maine as a punishment. In fact, her great-great-great Grandmother founded the town of Lyric after surviving a shipwreck, and she has good memories of traveling there as a family in the summers.

She feels that maybe Lyric is just what she needs to help her slow her brain down and find some inner peace.

Violet settles in quickly. Her Uncle is kind and understanding of her needs.

She gets a job at the local aquarium, and although she still struggles with the stressors of her regular life, Violet begins to make a new group of friends.

One of Violet's missions for the summer is to locate the shipwreck that her ancestor survived. It is something she and Sam always talked about doing together and she wants to find it for him.

Along with her new friends, including a truth-seeking girl who makes Violet's pulse race, she sets out to unravel the mystery of the wreck.

This is such a beautifully told story about family, self-discovery and forgiveness. Drake packed this full of hella serious subject matter, while writing with such humanity and care, it filled my heart.

The friendship group that Violet finds in Lyric are complete friendship goals. Additionally, the evolution of her relationship with Liv...

It was everything. It felt so real. The anticipation, those moments when you first figure out your feelings for another person. The excitement. I was legit swooning.

I also really appreciated Violet's family. I like that her parents were supportive and loving. You could tell they wanted what was best for their kids and were willing to make difficult choices to keep them safe.

I think oftentimes in literature, YA in particular, it seems like if a character is struggling with their mental health, they come from a horrible family, or their family isn't there for them.

I thought it was nice to show that issues with mental health impact people from all segments of society, great families and not so great families, alike. I also thought the range of issues Violet and Sam are working through were more varied than you generally see.

As you can tell, I was really impressed with how this novel handled the topic of mental health.

Overall, The Last True Poets of the Sea is the perfect read for anyone looking for a hard-hitting, Queer YA Contemporary. If those buzzwords work for you, make sure you pick this up!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. It is a story I will never forget.

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews596 followers
October 25, 2019
Characters are so wonderful- you’ll wish to share a slice of blackberry pie with them!

“One puzzle piece actually has ‘four’ different ways to connect, not just two”.

Gorgeously written...with love, humor, intelligence, and humanity.
Profile Image for Melcat.
282 reviews26 followers
June 28, 2021
This book has a strong focus on relationships I did not care one bit about. It started out strong but I lost interest quickly.

I appreciate how unlikable the main character was at the beginning. I loved how she struggled, and felt like her internal issues were the only thing that kept the book interesting. Unfortunately, they all dissolved and with them the rest of my interest.

The writing is nice, but toward the second half of the book there is too many woke moments of deep truth/self-discovery that really do not come across as genuine.

Another problem for me is that there is zero personality between the side characters. You get the obvious manic pixie girl and the quirky handsome boy next-door, full-on walking stereotypes. The family side is sugar coated and heavily unbelievable.

I did not buy into the romantic feelings at all. The relationship felt forced, instantaneous...Oh and the love triangle. How is this still even a thing?

There are many glowing reviews but I did not really care. It just felt a bit artificial, unreal an empty.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,476 reviews1,891 followers
November 22, 2019
This is such a lovely, and rather hard-hitting, story (and from a debut no less!) that it feels a little strange to not rave about it and slap it with a high rating. But while there was so much good, so much of it moving, some of it also left me a little unmoved, too.

I became a bad sister and a bad daughter in an hour; an exile in just under two. By comparison, the Titanic sunk in two hours, forty minutes. Pretty impressive, to have sunk to the bottom even faster than the twentieth century's greatest shipwreck.

Tackling issues of depression, anxiety, self-harm, grief, and self-destructive behaviour, the story takes place against the backdrop of a small seaside town in Maine, featuring the mystery of a shipwreck, a romance that bloomed after, and focusing on the ancestors of the sole survivor of that long-ago tragedy.

I didn't think it was possible to be blindsided by a truth you've always suspected, but there you have it. As it turns out, it's devastating.

The story is queer, and lyrical, and funny, with quirky weirdness and awkwardness and charm. All from the perspective of a tall girl — woo! It's got a lot of things going for it and I really did love the writing, too. So while this one maybe, for whatever reason, didn't quite hit the mark, I will totally be keeping an eye on this new author and definitely picking up her next book.

There wasn't going to be magic healing; there'd be only a string of ands on which we'd thread our survival.

This is definitely going to be a hit for a lot of people, I think. I just wish I could count myself among them.

** I received a ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for Bharath.
642 reviews475 followers
March 31, 2023
This was a refreshing story with great writing and very well developed & impressionable characters. This is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’.

Violet is a teenager having a wild & wayward life with lots of partying & drinking. Her brother Sam attempts suicide and is admitted to an institution in Vermont for treatment. Her parents decide it is best Violet moves to Lyric, a coastal town in Maine, to stay with her uncle Toby. The town of Lyric incidentally was founded by her great-great-great-grandmother Fidelia who was the survivor of a shipwreck. Violet gets a position at the local aquarium as she tries to take stock of her life. She makes friends with Orion & Liv. There are a couple of other characters – Mariah & Felix as well. A large portion of the book is about the dynamics of the evolving complex relationship between Violet, Orion & Liv, and later Sam also joins in. I initially found the triangular & bisexual aspect of the relationship unusual, but later appreciated how the author developed it, moving well ahead of the standard fare of simplistic romantic relationships. Violet is interested in finding the shipwreck, and has Liv’s support and help for it and they chase up on some historical clues.

The writing is just great – the descriptions of the locale and how the relationships form & deepen. I listened to the audiobook narration by Tavia Gilbert and it was excellent, among the best I have listened to. This book tackles topics of love, sexuality, family, relationships, and mental health in a very mature manner. The pace is slow in parts, the mental health aspects vague and I found the search for the wreck to be less interesting than I had hoped for. Violet’s character is exceptionally developed – her imperfections but her growth based on experiences & relationships. This book is about many things and especially about overcoming guilt & regrets, being open to learn & change, self-discovery, friendship, togetherness & love.

I rarely read YA, and this was an entirely unexpected happy read.

My rating: 4.25 / 5.
Profile Image for Giulia.
705 reviews105 followers
March 8, 2020
"In that moment, we were the last true poets of the sea, and what mattered more than anything else was our quest."

TW: panic attacks, anxiety, mention of attempted suicide, mention of eating disorder, alcohol, drugs, mention of depression, mention of OCD

Unpopular Opinion Time 🐸☕️

This did not go as swimmingly as anticipated (ah, see what I did here?) and I feel cheated on.
Many things and aspects about The Last True Poets of the Sea did not convince me, and I was not expecting that after having read some glowing reviews.

But here I am, as always the blackest sheep of them all.
Wanna join my herd? Honestly, I would not recommend it – we never have fun and are just socially awkward. 🐑

This book started out strong but lost steam incredibly quickly.
Any maybe that was because I am not a fan of books about ships and sea, but nonetheless I was not interested, I was not hooked, I was not impressed.
I very plainly did not care.

I appreciated how unlikable the main character was.
Violet was struggling and had to face some personal truths and some hard introspective things to finally develop and grow – I found that to be very refreshing, I feel as if we very rarely come across unlikable characters in YA contemporary.
I also liked how profound her connection to Sam, her brother, was. I love my brother with my whole entire heart, and then some more, so reading about a character apparently cold and devil-may-care-ish loving her brother so unquestionably and painfully was relatable.

But that was pretty much everything I enjoyed in The Last True Poets of the Sea.
So let’s get this Rather Random Review™️ going, and let me tackle some of my issues (which were basically the whole entire book, not gonna lie)

First thing first, for as much as the writing style was lovely, profound and with some sparks of beauty, I found that it was, at times, saturated with cheap fake woke, deep truths moments.
Julia Drake’s way with words was unquestionable, but I was not thrilled by these random moments of too obvious self-discovery. As I said: they seemed fake woke to me.
The reading experience was overall lovely, but these moments ruined a bit my enjoyment.
In fact, I thought that these self-discovery, fake woke, deep moments lost their possible weight and strength because the characters themselves did not have weight or strength to begin with.

Indeed, that was another problem: I was not captivated by the characters and their relations.

If I have to be honest, Violet, Orion and Liv (because, let’s be real here, the other side characters were completely useless and could have easily not even been present since they had no backstory to talk about) were not remarkable.
Violet was definitely the more flashed out of the three of them, but for as much as the other two were concerned, I thought they were somewhat cliché and walking stereotypes.
Everybody but the main character felt two-dimensional and just edgy™️ for the sake of being edgy. Liv was a manic pixie dream girl with a dark past; Orion was your handsome, quirky boy-next-door. Nothing new and nothing special.

And I guess that was mainly dictated by a detail that I’ve noticed while reading which was that all actions and behaviours were easily forgiven. And that mainly happened in the familial relationships but was also present in the friendships.
Now, allow me to be ridiculously specific, but I strongly believe that a friendship is also depicted by the tantrums, the fights and the arguments since it is very much through those that the personalities of your characters are illustrated. The good shapes a relation and a characters just as much as the bad, but here all the bad was forgiven.
Actions did not have consequences, everything was rainbows and sunshine, and all of them were friends no matter what. This complete absence of an edge (even if the characters themselves were even too edgy to be credible) made for two-dimensional, shallow relationships and characters, in my opinion :/

Moreover I was a bit uncomfortable by how Violet’s sexuality and sexual orientation were depicted.
She was bi (and that in itself was not a problem, of course), but it seemed to me that she was sexually attracted to literally anything that breathed. I can be wrong, I can be a clown (I most surely am), but I thought the way in which her desire for literally anything that moved was depicted kinda inscribed itself into the harmful stereotype of what I guess we can call "the slutty bi trope".
And I was definitely not thrilled by that.

Plus, I personally thought that the various relationships came out of the blue and did not particularly make sense. For example, at one point Liv is distraught, so her best friend since forever (!) tells Violet – a random girl that arrived in town literally two days prior – to go and comfort her. I mean, okay. Sounds fake but okay.
The deep and meaningful friendship that we are told existed among Orion, Liv, Felix and Mariah was completely absent on pace: indeed, it was only told and not shown. And that only added to the two-dimensionality and shallowness of the characters.
To add insult to injury, even the romantic relationships were seriously lacking. In my opinion, there was no chemistry nor growth. And they were even a bit insta-lovey.
This was supposedly a love-triangle but I did not see the angst and love and pining. The relationships just seemed randomly and unreasonably deep and intense, but nothing had happened between them. It got deep too quickly and thus it felt unreal and empty.
And I’m not about that life, fam ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Counting the fact that this book was heavily centered around relations, it was a bit of a pity to realise I did not like the great majority of relationships – platonic or romantic – present in The Last True Poets of the Sea. And I believe that is why I found myself bored by the plot and the book itself.

The plot was a bit too slow moving. Halfway through and nothing much had happened, which would have been fine if the relations and characters were good but, alas, that was not the case :/

So, slow moving plot + story about boats and sea + unremarkable characters = bored Giulia.

Furthermore, at times everything seemed a bit disjointed, as if there were some pieces missing. It was jumpy and thus slightly confusing. Some scenes did not flow and some conversations and connections came out of literal thin air. And every time that happened, I got pulled out of the story and I had to force myself to get right back in. The first time that happened, it was easy to dive right in. But as the instances increased in number, it got challenging and I found myself struggling to care.

As a matter of fact, I never managed to feel for the characters; I just simply did not care in the slightest. And on top of that, I never even took a true interest in the plot.

All in all, this was simply not for me.
Unfortunately I was not blown away by this. I was never interested, the plot bored me, the characters were unremarkable and the relationships felt forced. On top of that, I even found the representation a bit questionable.
For as much as I appreciated the writing style, the deep family relations and the unlikable main character, everything else was somehow lacking, in my opinion.

The Last True Poets of the Sea tackled some topics such as mental health and family bonds. It was a coming-of-age with an unlikable main character that grows.
I can see why so many people love this one, I see and I understand and I rejoice because reeding a book you end up loving is the best feeling ever.
Sadly though, I was not able to set sail with you all, and The Last True Poets of the Sea was my own personal shipwreck.

"I could give him proof that he mattered. That we mattered. If I could find our wreck, maybe I could start to put us back together again.
I’d find the wreck, and I’d make us whole."
Profile Image for Nev.
1,109 reviews152 followers
October 16, 2019
I don’t know if I’ll go as far to say that this is a perfect book overall, but it definitely was a perfect book for me. Complicated family relationships, mental illness, queer girls, and a summer spent at a seaside town. There are loving friendships, a wonderful f/f relationship, and a main character who doesn’t always say or do the right thing.

This just checked so many boxes for things I enjoy in books. The writing was beautiful, the relationships felt authentic, and the plot was interesting. I’d definitely recommend this if the synopsis sounds interesting to you.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,497 followers
June 12, 2019
This book is freaking stunning in the most swallow-you-whole kind of way. In comp terms, I'd say it's The Weight of the Stars meets How to Make a Wish, so you know it's got complicated family, gorgeous Sapphic romance, deep secrets, a brilliant mind's obsession, a well-drawn coastal setting, grieving themes, and found family on lock, and it also weaves in backstory in all these surprising little glimpses. So good.
Profile Image for Sara ➽ Ink Is My Sword.
569 reviews439 followers
June 9, 2020
life has been weird recently, i got caught in a storm yesterday and now this book has water damage, but we are still here. 🌱
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 9 books398 followers
May 11, 2020
This was a book that is very character driven. I really enjoyed the author’s voice, and Violet was a fun main character to spend time with. Violet grew up in NYC and perhaps grew up a bit too quickly working on Broadway. Her brother Sam attempts suicide, and she’s sent to stay with her uncle for the summer in coastal Maine, where their family legend says that their great-great grandmother was shipwrecked and managed to survive, getting back to shore and founding the town. Mystery. Romance. Tragedy. Humor.

With newfound friends and another shipwreck enthusiast, they search for the lost wreck. The characters and backstories are interesting, from main characters to secondary players, and everything about this world is richly drawn. At its heart, this is a story of family, of a bond between brother and sister, fractured perhaps beyond repair, and trying to mend itself again, and watching that evolve was a beautiful thing. It’s the perfect read if you’re in the mood for a slow build more literary tale. Thoroughly enjoyed.

Trigger Warnings:

Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.
Profile Image for TL .
1,877 reviews53 followers
February 3, 2020
This was really good, no criticisms:)
Little gem of a book I didn't expect to love like I do.
Tears and smiles in this one.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews192 followers
August 30, 2020
The Last True Poets of the Sea is a contemporary story about the importance of communication. Having read so many stories that only use miscommunication as a plot device, it's so refreshing to find something that truly tackles how difficult it can be to open up to others, even when you need it; how easy it is to not understand each other inside a family.

Violet's family has a history of mental illness. Her younger brother Sam has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt, and she has been sent to a coastal small town in Maine to spend the summer with her uncle. She's very much not ok: she's dealing with dissociation and panic attacks and a general feeling of not belonging in her own life, of only existing to ruin everything.
Violet is a kind of YA main character I'm not used to reading about - she tries to distract herself through partying, drinking, flirting, sometimes ending up in dangerous situations, and yet she's never a cautionary tale. She's queer but doesn't have everything figured out. And, more than anything, she's never afraid to take up space, and likes to attract attention: I'm not used to seeing this, because there's a stigma to women wanting attention (it's not a case the most common insult used for people who want attention has a gendered slur in it), and characters like Violet are often seen as "unlikable". I loved her and her growth.

One of the things I liked the most about The Last True Poets of the Sea is how it handles mental illness. We rarely see books deal with the fact that sometimes (often? more often than fiction would have you think) these things run in families, but present themselves differently depending on the person. At the same time, some parts were weird to read for me, because seeing yourself in a side character can be like that (and, by the way, I really didn't like how they referred to Sam's panic attacks as "tantrums". That's not what that is), but for the most part I can't complain: this book is uncomfortably accurate in portraying many things, and I really appreciate its dedication to realism.

The teens in this book feel like actual teens. They have acne and ugly feet and questionable taste in clothes (...this is the first time in my life I've seen a book with a love interest who has acne), they drink and smoke even though there are times in which they wish they didn't, they're reckless and immature and can't communicate, they have almost nothing figured out. All of these things shouldn't be so uncommon, and yet I found myself surprised again and again by how real this felt, when its overarching plot is about a group of friends looking for a lost shipwreck of all things.
It also has a very realistic queer love triangle ending in a very sweet romance! And it's one of the few books in which I've seen someone apologize for unintentionally walking over another person's feelings in this context. It's... such a gem. And it's really atmospheric as well: Lyric, Maine doesn't exist but it sure felt like a real place.

The only thing that didn't make it feel as real was the audiobook narration, because all the characters, the majority of which are under 17, sounded like middle aged women. (I often couldn't distinguish them or Violet's narration from her dialogue.)

I'm giving it four stars mostly because around halfway through I was kind of bored and felt like not much was actually happening, but the last 20% managed to almost make me tear up, which doesn't happen to me often.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Plant Based Bride).
427 reviews4,826 followers
March 13, 2020
Ok. I wanted to like this book but I just couldn’t.

I think this novel explores some really important issues such as suicidal ideation, depression, eating disorders, underage drug and alcohol use, the effect of mental illness not only individuals but on their loved ones and how that can shift and break down familial relationships... but it just didn’t do it for me.

The only character I particularly cared about was Sam, who I wish was in more of the book or potentially the protagonist. Toby was also great. I didn’t care for our protagonist in the least and I found the representation of her bisexuality to be questionable at best.

The secondary characters felt very stereotypical and two dimensional, especially Liv who was a manic pixie dream girl to a T, Orion who was a super hot, super talented, super nice guy with zero personality, and Felix who I won’t even get into because that's a whole other can of worms.

While I have no issue with YA tackling sex, I think it’s important actually, I found the semi-graphic sexual content to be extremely uncomfortable to read. Maybe that’s just because I am an adult, but I think what bothered me most was that the way Violet thought about sex and sexual contact felt far more adult than her general level of maturity.

Now, I can only speak from my own personal experience, but I know I did not think about making out or touching other people in this manner until I was in my early 20s. So maybe I’m just a late bloomer, which is probably accurate, but regardless, it was weird.

Also the whole subplot of Broadway and statutory rape which felt oddly pasted in and was never adequately addressed??? Are statutory rape and other forms of sexual abuse common in the entertainment industry? Yes! Do people who suffer this kind of abuse just recover and develop healthy sexual relationships overnight without some form of professional help, especially when they are still a teenager? Not that I know of!

Not even the shipwreck exploration did it for me. I give it two stars because the writing was beautiful (though slightly ponderous) but otherwise I found myself just waiting for this to be over.

Trigger Warnings: Suicide attempt, underage drug and alcohol abuse, implied statutory rape (and sexual assault of a minor), loss of an eye, death of a child, eating disorders.
Profile Image for luce (that loser crying on the n° 2 bus).
1,437 reviews4,041 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
November 23, 2019
DNF 10%

Reasons I did not finish this book:

1) Slut shaming ahoy!

2) Eyeliner, shorts, and long hair: bad. No makeup, dad's jeans, big shirts, shaved head: good.

3) Our protagonist is one TALL girl, so yes, a lot of tallgirlproblems (*ahem* she is not like other girls)

4) Her parents...? Laughably unbelievable.

5) Hot guy alert within pages of our character swearing off love
Profile Image for Elizabeth .
407 reviews56 followers
April 25, 2020
This was just genuine perfection. The characters, the friend group, the romance the writing, the story, the discussion about family, mental illness, sexuality *chef's kiss*. I love everything about this and it's one of my new absolute favorite books of all time. This is criminally underrated and everyone should read this because it's so perfect.
Profile Image for - ̗̀  jess  ̖́-.
598 reviews278 followers
January 21, 2020

When I first saw The Last True Poets of the Sea, I found myself hooked on the premise--I'd read the first few chapters and was drawn into it. It sounded like the kind of story I would like, and in many ways, I was right. The Last True Poets of the Sea is an deep exploration of family, friendship, mental illness, and survival.

Our main character is Violet, who's been sent to live with her uncle in the town of Lyric, Maine, after a rough year for her family. When we first meet her, Violet's reeling from the past year coping with her brother's mental health problems by partying and promiscuity. The Last True Poets of the Sea is about Violet putting the pieces of who she is together, solving the problem of her family, and finding the self who she's lost. Violet is such a realistic character to me, with so many contradictory

The book also throws readers a proper love triangle with two of the side characters, Liv and Orion, two of the teenagers that Violet meets in Lyric. Violet finds herself attracted to both of them, who are a will-they-won't-they couple, and both find themselves attracted to Violet. I wasn't expecting this book to be queer, which makes me glad that it was. Orion is the sweetest boy, and Liv is smart and ambitious, and I enjoyed the dynamic of all three of them together. 

When it comes to the discussion of mental illness, The Last True Poets of the Sea goes the avenue of leaving a named diagnosis out of the book for any of the characters. However, Violet is heavily implied to have bipolar disorder; meanwhile, Sam has a "complicated" diagnosis implied to be something more, which I personally read as autism (Violet constantly saying there was "more" to Sam, sensory issues, special interests, and general rigidity in schedule). I'll be honest: I'm not really a fan of the Ambiguous Disorder trope. I understand why authors do it; in this book, it's to show the connection between Sam and Violet, as well as hereditary mental illness.

I'm also not a fan of the Problem Sibling trope, though The Last True Poets definitely does deconstruct it and show how both Violet and Sam are both going through their own separate struggles and that they're likely both neurodivergent in some way. If -- and I do stress the "if" -- Sam was written to be autistic, the comparison of autism to mental illness does make me deeply uncomfortable. Obviously, autistic people can certainly be mentally ill, and have what Sam was diagnosed with (we love comorbidities), but I wish there was a distinction. Because to me, it felt like Sam was being presented as the Problem Sibling, who destabilized his family, and that narrative does quite bother me, especially if Sam was meant to be autistic. Of course, I could always just be reading Too Far Into It, so take these last two paragraphs with a salt shaker!

The writing is really gorgeous, though, and lends so much to the atmosphere of sleepy small-town Maine in the summer. Julia Drake gives Violet a really strong voice, which is good because this book is so character-driven and emotional.

I would definitely recommend The Last True Poets of the Sea as a great YA contemporary. It's a book that makes you feel things, a messy family and messy people trying to put themselves back together.

content warnings | suicide, eating disorder, grief, drug and alcohol use

representation | unspecified mental illness/neurodiversity
Profile Image for Emma.
931 reviews887 followers
December 29, 2019
3.5/5 Stars

In that moment, we were the last true poets of the sea, and what mattered more than anything else was our quest.

I went into this book with very high expectations and even though I was not disappointed, I wasn't blown away either. I don't know why, but I expected a lot more than what I found. This doesn't absolutely mean that this is a bad book,I just didn't click with it as much as I was hoping to.

What I liked the most about this story is how the author managed all the relationships Violet has, the ones with her family and friends. They felt very realistic and so they were perfectly believable. I especially appreciated how her relationship with her brother Sam was portrayed, I wish we could have seen more of that.

Having the quest as the focal point of the story can always be kind of a risk, especially if it's a quest like this one, but I think it worked pretty well. Let's just say that I was happy with how the story was resolved.

If you're looking for a retelling of Twelfth Night with a bisexual main character and complicated and deep family relationships, this is definitely the book for you!
Profile Image for madeline.
227 reviews98 followers
January 28, 2020
this book makes me excited to read again, especially to explore more books with sapphic characters. i loved the friendship group/ensemble cast that had started to form, and liv/violet gives me such warm fuzzies. i love them, and i love that they fell for each other instead of orion (no offense to him bc he's great in his own way). the last true poets of the sea checked off so many boxes for me, and i love it. i knew when i saw that madeline miller blurbed it + loved it, i would adore this book too.
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