Title: Waves Break (on Unknown Shores)
Author: Barry Litherland
“I suppose it’s like that with Stevie.
He’s just another victim, like Chloe, only worse, much worse.
Like I say, accidents cling to Wayne like a bad smell.
It could’ve been me. I was there too.
But it wasn’t. It was Stevie.
And I guess I have to live with that.”
Waves Break (on Unknown Shores) is a bildungsroman novel which flips between the past and present to show how the protagonist, Phil, has managed to end up with a friend like Wayne. Tied together by a childhood trauma, ever since then, Wayne has been like an unwanted shadow following Phil. Now adults, Phil feels an obligation to keep Wayne on his feet and the two of them are determined to keep the past behind them. However, that becomes difficult when Wayne is accused of a burglary he says he wasn’t involved with, and suddenly people from their past are coming up out of the woodworks, and an event they’d rather forget, is positioning itself right in their line of sight, unable to allow them to hide from it any longer.
What I liked about this novel was how real it felt. From the character developments and their backstories, to the plausible way they behaved, I genuinely feel like this could’ve been the lives of real people. I think that’s really important in a book like this too because the plot doesn’t really deal with anything extraordinary, so there really needs to be an element of plausibility, or the reader is just not going to feel engaged. I think the “villains” of the novel, such as Tyrone, were so human that it made them scarier because it wasn’t hard to believe that it could be someone living next door to you. Again, reiterating the novel’s plausibility.
Although I feel like this was intentional, it was kind of frustrating how long it took to find out what happened to Stevie. As it’s mentioned right at the beginning of the novel, I presume Litherland was using it to keep the reader turning the page, but I think he dragged it out a little too long, to the point where I didn’t care much about the plot in the present and just wanted to know what happened the past – but maybe that’s just because I’m impatient!
One thing I don’t think the author did particularly well was the dialogue of the children; in general the dialogue was very believable and I think it helped make the characters feel more real, but, there wasn’t really a differentiation between the dialogue of the adults and the dialogue of the kids. As it’s retrospective, I understand the stream-of-consciousness from Phil being more eloquent as he’s remembering being a child when he’s an adult, but the actual interactions between the children just felt way too mature for me in terms of the language they were using.
Harking back to the title, it felt like one of Litherland’s intentions with the book was to show how events which happen to you can have a ripple effect on the rest of your life, and while I liked this, I would have liked to see him go even further with it. While I did like the language in the book, I felt a lot of it only flirted with this metaphor and could have ran deeper.
All in all I enjoyed Waves Break (on Unknown Shores), and I think Litherland did a fantastic job of creating realistic and plausible characters and interesting plot arcs. I would have liked to see a bit more depth in the writing, but on the other hand, the simplicity of it did make it easy to understand, and sometimes that’s undervalued in books. I would definitely read something from Litherland again, and I would recommend this to anyone who wants a book which could be pulled straight from the pages of real life.