Sea by Heidi R. Kling is another of my favorite novels. Fifteen-year-old Sienna “Sea” Jones has not been herself since her mother died in a plane crash over the Indian Ocean. Suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and being treated by her father, a psychologist, Sienna no longer body-boards in the ocean or engages in her former interests. On her birthday, Sienna is surprised with a plane ticket to Indonesia, to help the children orphaned by the tsunami that hit Aceh in 2004. Terrified of airplanes, the ocean, and the thought of international travel after what happened to her mother, Sienna refuses to go at first. But when her friend Spider discovers a meaningful relic from their past, they take it as a sign that Sienna should go.
Although it’s only for two weeks, Sienna’s trip to Indonesia changes her life. Her recurring night terrors are quelled when she now has the responsibility of comforting the young orphans. Her perspective changes when she witnesses the testimonies of the young women who outran the great wave, but saw their homes and families perish behind them. Most of all, Sienna falls in love with a gorgeous and mysterious Indonesian boy, called Deni. But Deni’s tragic past holds deep secrets. And with the two living on opposite sides of the world in vastly different cultures, will they be able to sustain their romance?
I loved this book for its simple poignancy. It’s a light read, yet deals very well with heavier themes, such as tragedy, death, grief, and romantic passion. I loved the cultural and educational value of this book too, in the fascinating setting of modern-day Indonesia, learning about its geography, customs and religious practices. I also appreciated the depth of the characters, including the narrator, Sienna, who portrays wisdom and maturity beyond her fifteen years – but in a realistic way.
This is the kind of book I couldn’t put down. It had me wondering about the characters, even the background ones, long after finishing. A very good read, and a solid debut from author Kling. This is among my favorite “travel romances.”