Saturday, September 19, 2015

Not Just YA -- EDGEWATER, Courtney Sheinmel, Long Island Mystery

The photo here is borrowed from a friend's Twitter feed, and I'm pretty sure it shows a countertop reminder at Vermont's noted general bookstore in Manchester Center, Northshire. The point is clear, and it's one that readers have known "forever": Books labeled "young adult" (YA) because of the ages of their protagonists are also often really good reading for adults.

Few titles prove this as powerfully as EDGEWATER, the newest from seasoned adventure author Courtney Sheinmel. Caught by a nasty, snooty friend's machinations at an expensive summer camp in North Carolina, "advanced" equestrian Lorrie Hollander bets her last twenty-dollar bill on a competition involving her horse -- and loses, followed immediately by the camp director calling her into the office and sending her home, for nonpayment of fees.

Lorrie's sure it's all a highly embarrassing mistake. There's no dad in her life, and her mother deserted her early on, but her quirky aunt Gigi administers the trust fund that keeps Lorrie living a high-end lifestyle that fits with any long-distance view of her family's mansion on Long Island, in the beachfront resort development of Idlewild. But behind the mansion's first view is a crumbling house infested with rescued cats, Lorrie's animal-loving sister's answer to needing something to love -- and Aunt Gigi and her "Blue Periods," serious depressions that make her useless as a guardian to the sisters.

This time, though, Lorrie's old enough -- having just finished her junior year of high school -- to drop the pretenses and go looking for her trust fund, to get it transferred to her own control and stop the cascade of humiliations. After all, her beloved horse is waiting for her in North Carolina.

But the more she investigates, the more Lorrie realizes things are way out of hand. A chance meeting with the handsome and wealthy son of a nationally active political family in the same resort offers her a potent new friendship that she's too embarrassed to accept. Charlie's the son of an esteemed senator, and his mother's about to launch her own campaign. How could Lorrie guess that important answers to the mysteries of her own family could be tangled up with Charlie's prestigious household?

Astute adult readers may recall that Idlewild was the earlier name of Kennedy Airport, and some may even know it as the vanished name of a high-end development on Long Island's Jamaica Bay. And almost all adult readers will leap ahead of Lorrie to guess at what's been hidden, as Sheinmel's novel reveals parallels to the Kennedy family history, especially the segment that took place at Chappaquiddick.

Enough said. I promise I haven't given a spoiler -- you would have seen the parallel in how Charlie and his family are introduced. And, as with the best YA fiction, EDGEWATER depends for its depth on Lorrie's struggles, insights, and conflicted choices. But there's a neatly twisted bit of crime fiction involved too, and Sheinmel's writing is smooth, taut, well-paced, and blessed with the simultaneous tensions that a gifted storyteller must manage to pull closer and closer to each other.

Blurbs for the book come from bestselling YA authors and, in an unusual twist, urban booksellers. Sure, go ahead an buy the book "for the young adult in your life." But don't give it away until you've read it yourself. In fact ... it might be better to just pick up two copies, so you won't have to feel deprived of this very good tale that author Lauren Oliver described with "past and present become mysteriously, and sometimes dangerously, intertwined. "

That could definitely describe a good work of crime fiction for adults -- and in EDGEWATER, that's exactly what it does. After all, you were a high school junior yourself once, weren't you?


Anonymous said...

Image is actually from an article about bookstore signs. (Sadly Northshire wasn't among them!) But those at the Northshire Bookstore stand by it!

Beth Kanell said...

A quick link for Northshire fans, including us: