A touching tale of teenage angst & growth

Friday, March 21, 2014 
(Published in print: Saturday, March 22, 2014)

Special to The Recorder

“Returning to Shore” by Corinne Demas (Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Publishing, 208 pages, $17.95)

Teenagers are intense and vulnerable — and their lives are seldom easy. Corinne Demas of Amherst has created a realistic, touching tale of teenage angst and growth in “Returning to Shore.”

Clare dreads the upcoming summer. Her mother is leaving the country to honeymoon with husband No. 3, and the 15-year-old is about to be exiled to Cape Cod to spend a few weeks with Richard, the father she hasn’t seen since she was 3. She feels resentful and ill at ease.

When Clare meets her father, he looks significantly older than he did in the photographs that constitute her only memory of him. He reveals little about himself. She learns that he has retired early from his job to devote his time to the protection of endangered turtles — a passion she doesn’t at first understand.

Nevertheless, from their initial encounter it is clear to the reader, if not to Clare, that she has more in common with Richard than she realizes. Almost without words they begin to negotiate the terms of their relationship.

Clare is a beautifully drawn character. Like most girls her age, she is simultaneously sophisticated and simple, mature and childish. As she discovers more about her father’s past and comes to understand his reasons for keeping his distance over the years, she begins to grow up — and to help her father find peace.

Corinne Demas makes Clare and her father easy to identify with and care about. Clare’s language, clothing and habits will ring true to anyone who deals with teenagers on a regular basis. She is her own person, however, not just a stereotype. She is smart, she is eager to love and she is surprisingly subtle.

The novel itself is also subtle. The reader learns about endangered turtles and about Richard as Clare does, gradually and by interpreting images and verbal cues. As a result, when Clare and Richard finally make an emotional breakthrough, the reader is fully invested in their relationship.

That emotional breakthrough is sweet — but the book balances sweet and savory beautifully, mostly by making Clare and her situation real and important to the reader. “Returning to Shore” is as smart as its heroine and Clare’s story will move readers of any age.