Author: Chris Vick
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication: April 7th 2016, HarperCollins Children's Books
Pages: 400 Pages, Paperback
Rating: 2.5/5 Cupcakes!
Source: Thank you to Lovereading4Kids and HarperCollins Children's Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my opinion of the title I'm reviewing.
A heart-pounding love story that grips like a riptide, and doesn’t let go…Fifteen-year old Sam has moved from the big city to the coast – stuck there with his mum and sister on the edge of nowhere. Then he meets beautiful but damaged surfer-girl Jade. Soon he’s in love with her, and with surfing itself. But Jade is driven by an obsession: finding and riding a legendary huge wave no one has ever ridden. As the weeks wear on, their relationship barrels forward with the force of a deep-water wave – into a storm, to danger … and to heartbreak.
When I got offered to review this book, I didn't even hesitate before accepting the offer. The premise sounded positively intriguing, it was set by the sea and I was promised a “heart-pounding” romance that would sweep me away. I was not swept away. I started off enjoying this book but as I turned the pages my love and excitement for the book dwindled to nothing. I had so many issues with this book, this will be a rant review, just a warning.
SO, Kook is about fifteen year old Sam who has moved from London alongside his mother and little sister, Tegan, to the Cornwall's coast to be near his cancer-stricken grandmother. From the very first day, Sam is awestruck by the enigmatic Jade who lives next door to him and is ecstatic as she takes him under his wing and invites him into the obscure and somewhat magical world of surfing. As Sam begins to surf and falls in love with it – and Jade – she confesses to him that she wants to ride the Devil Horns, a legendary massive wave that no one has ever been able to conquer. Although Sam knows this obsession with a monstrous wall of sea could lead to injuries or worse, he'd do anything in order to help Jade achieve her dream – even if it submerges him and Jade into a rip tide that they won't be able to escape from.
It sounded good. It started good. But by the end of Kook, I felt absolutely nothing for this book except annoyance, slight disgust and the feeling that I had squandered my time reading it. Perhaps it was me who was the problem in this case - as I'm quite conservative about certain activities that were explored in this book – I'm not sure, all I know is that the love I was expecting to have for this book crashed and burned shortly after starting it. It had potential, but it failed to impress me.
Kook started off promising. I loved the Cornish setting and, at first, I absolutely adored Sam. Despite his pride and his impressionable nature, he was an excellent brother to his little sister, he seemed a quiet, geeky sort of character (my favorite kind of character because I can relate to that), a goofy, sweet fifteen year old boy that I thought I would love more with each turning page but I'm sad to say by the end of the book, I was so frustrated and disappointed in him. I think my main issue with Sam was how gullible and spineless he was. He was offered drugs, he was offered alcohol, he was asked to engage in activities that could lead to his potential paralysis or death but he always went along with it in bids to impress Jade and her friends and it frustrated me to no end. I've never understood the need to have to prove yourself to people by doing irresponsible, reckless, illegal things and I don't even know why you want to be “friends” with people who would shun you for turning down the uncomfortable activities they pressurise you to engage in. I could blame Jade and her posse for tempting Sam with the hazy, careless lifestyle that they lived but the thing is, you have a choice to turn around and say no. I think at some point everybody is faced with peer pressure and you always have the opportunity to turn your back on the things you know are dangerous, the things that you know could only bring a tidal wave of trouble and Sam never did, he just went along with everything.
Not only did he take drugs and drink, he also lied to his mother and showed extreme disrespect and blatant cheek. His dad died drowning off the Cornish coast and Sam repeatedly puts himself in situations that could potentially lead him to have the same fate as his father. Not only that, but he doesn't tell his mother what he's doing, where he's surfing or anything, it's like he had no consideration for her sanity. If she lost both her son and her husband to drowning I can't even imagine the amount of turmoil that would play on her mental and physical health. It just seemed so disgustingly selfish to do things that not many people would do because they knew it could lead to death and he went and did it behind his mother's back with lies about being at school or stargazing instead. How could you know you might not come back from something and not even tell your mother you love her and kiss your sister goodbye? How could you be so selfish?
This brings me to my next point which involves the syndrome of disappearing parents that many YA books suffer from. It's actually worse in Kook as the parents are there but there lack of guidance and discipline is quite simply frightening and appalling. There were several times throughout the book where Sam comes home high, drunk, or worse. There was one part in the novel where something he did got him involved with law enforcement and his mother lectures him and then Jade appears at the door and Sam's like “Yo, mom, Ima be on my way” and he just starts walking out the door and his mother is just like “Yo, Sammy-boi, don't go too far” (not what's actually said in the book but THAT WAS BASICALLY THE CONVERSATION) and I was literally gawking and slapping my forehead repeatedly because how can you allow your fifteen year old son to treat you with no respect and just control you like that?! LIKE, SERIOUSLY?! And then there was Jade's father who was a drunkard and who didn't seem to care about her activities most of the time and if I'm being honest, it seemed like a ploy to have Jade do whatever the heck she wanted with no parental restrictions.
That brings me to Jade. I did not like Jade, I couldn't connect to her and she's exactly the sort of person I would avoid at all costs if I were to meet her in real life. She was manipulative, rude, careless, stubborn and didn't think of anyone but herself. I know she was “broken” and “troubled” but I don't feel as if she was written well enough in order for me to really feel for her. She didn't feel fully fleshed out and I always felt as if we were skimming the surface of her life and never really getting to know her. Perhaps that's what people in the book who knew her were supposed to feel, but as a reader, I need to know more about a character, I need to feel a connection to them and I need to form an emotional attachment to them Perhaps it was just me and not the way she was written, but I always felt like there was a brick wall between Jade and I preventing me from ever getting to know her or even to care that much about her. I think I could've liked Jade if we were given more of an insight into who she was and if she wasn't such an awful person. Even after spending 400 pages in her company, I feel like I barely knew her but what I did see of her and learn of her I just couldn't bring myself to like her. She was disrespectful, she seemed quite self-absorbed, she was incredibly rude and she swore all. the. freaking. time. She dragged people into harmful situations, she never thought things through, she was just such an unlikable character.
Not only was she all of those things, but she was constantly smoking weed, taking heavier substances or swigging back alcohol. There was a scene where she takes a class A drug and thinks absolutely nothing of it, in fact she wants more (which isn't surprising as it's classified as a dangerous and addictive substance) and what shocked me further, was that Sam and the other characters were amused at the state she was in. It was as if no one had been taught about drugs and the severe physical and mental impact it has on the human body. Surely Sam and Jade's other friends would've felt worried about her? Or perhaps it was because they were too intoxicated to think of the implications of what she'd just done?? Either way, it sickened me to see drug usage taken so lightly and for not one single person (except Sam's mom) mention the toll these substances can take on somebody, especially a developing teenager.
The other characters weren't much better. There was Big G, Rag and Skip. I could've liked them if they weren't drug-users or people with foul mouths as they seemed to feel more real, especially Rag and Skip who I felt actually cared about the other people in their friendship group instead of just focusing on themselves. But unfortunately, the rare times I liked them wasn't enough to make me enjoy this book more.
I also couldn't bring myself to care about the romance. It seemed as if Sam was always doing stupid things in order to prove himself to Jade, always getting into trouble to accompany Jade in her shenanigans, always doing something to make him feel like he meant something to her – if you feel like you have to keep proving yourself, surely that isn't love? I just didn't ever believe the romance, it felt more like an obsession from Sam's side and Jade...well, Jade didn't seem to view Sam with much respect or importance. Especially towards the end when Sam was trying to do something that would help Jade immensely and she told him, I quote, “You don't fucking own me” - it was practically a life or death situation and she wouldn't let someone help her because she wanted her own way. She was one of those characters who is supposed to appear “tough”, “free” and “brave” but just comes across as irresponsible, self-centered and stupidly reckless.
Something else that further angered me about this book was the excessive amount of swearing, drug use and language. Practically every sentence that Jade or the others spoke contained quite harsh swear words and blasphemy. I'm aware that most people swear, especially teenagers, but I feel like there was too much in Kook. I really don't like it when people use such awful language but if it's a couple of times in a book, I don't mind that much, but when it's almost on every page, well, it gets boring quickly.
Another thing I wasn't expecting when I started Kook was the amount of drug and alcohol consumption this book contained. You've probably sussed that out already from the rest of this review (if you're even reading this, I apologize for the length of this review!) but I am extremely against drugs and reading this book really upset me because there was just so many times drugs were taken. Weed, spliffs (what is that even??), class A drugs and other things were referenced. In fact, half of the plot of this book consisted of the characters getting high and drunk and the other half of the plot was about surfing. It was quite tedious reading about the characters slowly spiral into self-destruction and what upset me was that they didn't even realise the havoc they were wreaking on their bodies. I feel like the author should've included the dangers of drug-usage and under-age drinking because this book made certain substances seem like something harmless, something that isn't deadly. I really wish the author had highlighted the dangers to teach people about the fatal consequences of taking these substances.
Now, this book wasn't all bad. The writing flowed smoothly and the dialogue wasn't awkward or cheesy. There were some stunning descriptions laced throughout this book, especially of the waves. I used to live by the beach when we returned to South Africa and the author did a brilliant job of describing the sea and I definitely felt transported to the coastal town of Cornwall as I read this book. I also liked the relationship that Sam had with his sister, you could see he cared about her and loved her, and although these moments were rarely seen later on through the book, the first few glimpses we got of that was adorable! I also liked the theme in this book that “fear makes the wolf look bigger”. Despite having many reasons to fear the ocean and the power of the sea, Sam tackled his fears head on and I admired him for that. Although I felt like there wasn't much substance to the plot, the last 100 pages were intense and as I read them I felt the crushing darkness the characters were thrust into. Chris Vick is definitely a talented writer and I might pick up his future books provided they don't contain as much profanity as Kook did. That ending was also quite emotional and although I didn't form a strong attachment to any of the characters, it did make me feel slightly sad and had me reflect on life and how quickly it can be unexpectedly ripped from us.
Kook was a novel featuring first love, heartbreak and a unquenchable thirst to be amidst the ocean waves. Although the book had some stunning descriptions and I enjoyed the theme of conquering ones fear, it wasn't enough to save me from the swirling rip tide of my disappointment. Kook was a book I had high hopes for but I was unfortunately let down.
I give it: 2.5/5 cupcakes
- Scene of near drowning
- An almost scene of child abuse
- Extreme swearing and blasphemy
- Excessive amounts of smoking weed, taking class A drugs, dealing drugs, underage drinking and implicit sex scenes
- Mild violence in the form of fights between teenage boys