Drawing The Ocean

This month, Roaring Brook Press releases drawCarolyn MacCullough's new Young Adult novel, Drawing the Ocean.  Carolyn, a Children’s Book Writing and Creative Writing 101 teacher with Gotham, knows how to capture teenage angst on the page. 

Booklist said this about her previous YA novel, Stealing Henry: “Without a didactic note, she leaves teens to ponder some heavy issues: interracial relationships, teen pregnancy, runaways, and responsible parenting.”  And Booklist said this about another of Carolyn's YA novels, Falling Through Darkness (a New York Library Best Book for Teens selection): “The eloquence is in the space between what the characters say and what they don't.”  Her new book, Drawing the Ocean, is about a teenage girl in a new town dealing with the ghost of her twin brother.  It promises all the angst and eloquence a teen could want.

See for yourself in this passage from Drawing the Ocean:

The sky on this side of the country looks different, less gauzy, and I wonder if I can get it down on canvas. I’m not ready to try for color yet, so I leaf through my sketchbook until I come to a blank page. I take a breath, run my fingers down the smooth white space before making the first charcoal marks. Quick glances to the sea and the way the gray Atlantic waves curl and hiss across hard-packed sand, as if this is a test and all the answers are right before me. I draw for a long time, long enough for my brother to finally appear beside me.

“Do you like it here?” he asks, after attempting a handstand at the edge of my pink towel.

My fingers keep moving as I think about this question. I like being so close to the beach, close enough that when I can’t sleep at night, I pretend that the whole house is a ship that might slip its anchor at any moment and sail slowly, majestically off on the moonlit sea. Better than thinking about how I am starting a new school in a week and how many things could go wrong. Or not wrong, but not exactly right, either.

I had spent long dreaming hours on how to fit in at my new school. How it would be a chance to start over and not be that weird girl who was seen talking to herself sometimes and who was way too into art. I had to make friends early and fast. And act normal.

And of course, Ollie reads my mind and says, “There you go. There’s your first friend now.”

I squint into the distance, where I know he is pointing at a tall boy dressed in jeans and a bright orange T-shirt. At first I think he is sitting on a folded-up chair, but then I realize it is a closed briefcase. He is scribbling into a white rectangle of a notebook and I wonder if he is drawing, like me. He looks about my age. “Him?"

“Why not? Go talk to him."

“Ollie. I’m not you. I can’t just talk to anyone.” I study this boy again.

“Come on. Go tell him a story.”

“Oh, what do you know anyway? You’re twelve.” I watch as the boy sets aside his notebook, stares out at the water. “He does look kind of lonely,” I concede, turning back to my brother.

Who is no longer sitting by my side.

I put up one hand, shield my eyes from the suddenly too-bright sun, watch a woman walk past me, burdened by a wide striped umbrella. Three small boys dragging towels almost the exact shade of the sea follow in her wake.

“I hate it when you do that,” I say softly to the empty space beside me.

The woman cranes her neck, throws me a startled look, then glances back at her children. I return to my sketchbook, exchange my charcoal for my fine-point pencil. I don’t say another word.

My brother, Ollie, died four years ago, and I’ve learned from experience that people don’t handle it so well when I start talking to him.

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Copyright 2006© Carolyn MacCullough.  Reprinted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.  All rights reserved. To buy it online, visit bn.com.