Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release: June 12, 2014
After nine years spent suffocating in the arid expanses of the Midwest, far from the sea where her mother drowned, Callie Morgan and her estranged father are returning to the coast. And miraculously, Callie can finally breathe easily. No more sudden, clawing attacks and week-long hospital stays. No more wary, pitying glances from classmates and teachers. She can be more than a sickly freak, coughing her way between nondescript inland towns every year.Inland is a story of the sea. It is a story of crashing salt water and craggy cliffs and sprawling beaches, so vividly written that I expected a handful of sand to fall from the book's binding on every page. It is a story of the awe-inspiring power and mystery of the ocean's uncharted deeps. But most of all, it is a story of the pull of the sea—particularly the story of one girl who feels the ocean's allure more than anyone else.
But something waits for Callie in the water. Just as her life begins to feel like her own, with an almost-family and a first love and a circle of loud-mouthed friends, her body starts to rebel in new ways. She finds herself fighting the intoxicating pull of the black waters right outside her window. Her dreams turn wild and real, and she wakes up with salt water in her hair. Family secrets and whispering doubts flood her brain as she leads herself and those around her into danger, jeopardizing everything she once longed for. Is it madness, or is there a voice, beckoning her to come to the sea’s deepest heart; to come home?
Maybe that is why I loved this book so much. Maybe Inland sang to something deep inside of me, the part of me that feels smothered in the vast inland of Indianapolis, the part that waits with clenched muscles for the moment I can race to a new home in New York or Boston, the part of me that got left behind in San Francisco when I visited for the first time.
No, not "maybe." I am certain that a sizable portion of my love for this book stems from my personal feelings toward the world's coasts. But another part of my love comes from Kat Rosenfield's writing style, which is sometimes slow and languid, sometimes intense and urgent, and sometimes both simultaneously, just like the sea.
Inland's plot has a slow, meticulous build. At almost 400 pages, this novel leaves plenty of space for confusion and rich description, and Rosenfield does not shy away from either. At the beginning of the novel, Callie knows nothing about her inherited attraction to the ocean, and she incrementally learns more and more about her family's history and herself over the course of the entire novel. For most authors, such gradual pacing would have fallen flat, but Rosenfield keeps readers interested with her remarkable way of stringing words together inventively. Inland may have heavy description, but the author repurposes adjectives and metaphors to describe scenes and emotions in a creative, never-boring way.
Even better, no matter how slowly the plot intensifies, it never feels lethargic. Rosenfield weaves a coursing undercurrent of anticipation into every scene, keeping readers waiting for a moment when something big will happen. Each small crescendo in the plot, each tiny reveal that leads Callie closer to understanding her family—why she, her mother, and her aunt all feel such a strong bond to the coast—hooks readers a bit more until, by the end, they are fully immersed in the family's mysteries.
This book's intentionally slow pacing combines with reveals and climaxes that are worth every second of waiting to form one of the most satisfying and well-crafted stories I have read in months. Rosenfield's newest novel spoke not only to my instinctive urge to travel to the coast, but to my analytical mind that automatically detects talented writing. Inland refreshed my bond with the sea; stunned me with its spectacular storytelling; and will pull me, entranced, toward the author's next novel.