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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Fourteen-year-old James is worried that the young humpback whale he tracks online has separated from its pod, so he emails Darren, the twentysomething would-be filmmaker who once volunteered in James's special education program. Of course, Darren is useless on the subject of whales, but he's got nothing but time, given that the only girl he could ever love dumped him. Predictably, this thread of emails leads to a lot of bizarre stuff, including a yeti suit, drug smuggling, a graveyard, damaged echolocation, choke holds, emergency dentistry...and maybe ends with something like understanding. See, the thing that binds people together most is their fear that nothing binds them together at all.…

A 52-Hertz Whale

by Natalie Tilghman, Bill Sommer

Overall Book Review:

A 52-Hertz Whale is the debut novel of authors Natalie Tilghman and Bill Sommer. A clever write-up of conversational emails, swapped between different characters, constructs this work of fiction giving it a distinct style.

The two main characters–James, an offbeat teen obsessed with whales, and Darren, a somewhat egotistical 20-something who’s brokenhearted, converge viewpoints as they help one another through their exponential crises. Even though it can only be perceived through back and forth e-mail exchanges, the character dynamics are great and the distinction between characters even better. Readers really get the feel for the age and charismatics of each character because each is given a recognizable tone and grammatical composition.

Individuals within the novel are all unique. Encountering different situations gives readers a multidimensional view of each character, but what enlists readers’ regard for the characters’ future happenings and attracts investment is the commonality that all the characters are learning and growing at definitive stages of their life. Each is overcoming some sort of loss and finding ways in which to cope and overcome.

Because of the language (please refer to content analysis below), this fantastic novel that poignantly forays those struggling with acceptance and social approval is probably more suited for older readers.

Readers take heed, read this novel with no distractions, otherwise you may miss the pivotal developmental growth of the characters, because it is gradual, thus making it a more natural and relatable representation of real-life evolution.

Sweet, funny, and ennobling, feel free to take A 52-Hertz Whale for a spin–you just may enjoy your ride.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Carolrhoda Lab

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  15 religious exclamations; 11 mild obscenities; 1 derogatory name; 16 scatological words; 11 anatomical terms; 1 offensive hand gesture; 6 f-word derivatives. Note: the word effing and acronyms implying the f-word are used a few times and are not tallied.

Violence/Gore:  Mention of character having to dissect a child cadaver for medical school; memory of sibling throwing object at parent; shoving between characters; reports of character being roughly escorted from property; adult hits teen; teen punches adult; a few secondhand reports of animal cruelty/death/endangerment.

Sex/Nudity:   Male character uses a sexual reference implying sexual relations with girlfriend; 2 mentions of male teens drawing pornographic images; innuendo that child witnessed parents engaged in a sexual act; extended scene (about 3 paragraphs) secondhand descriptive report of kiss/touching/ caressing; extended scene (about 1 paragraph) male teen reminisces about hug from female; extended scene (about 1 paragraph) character reminisces about kiss; mention of kiss on a show; sexual reference “get lucky”; mention of males smacking each other’s rear ends as a form of congratulations; mention of participating in a wet t-shirt contest; teens play 7 minutes in heaven; comment on animal mating ritual; mention of animal sperm; teen mentions encountering pornography; sexual inference made of classic literature MOBY DICK; comment make about female’s large chest; slang word used for male genitalia; the word molested in mentioned once; mention of nipples; teens embrace and kiss.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death of a loved one/family member, disabling disease, drug use and addiction.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Drug use and addiction of family member talked about on a few occasions; several (about 10+) mentions of adults consuming alcohol; teens attend high school party and alcohol is consumed; mention of adult smoking cigarettes; adults make plans to get drunk; teens smoke cigarettes; teens drink alcohol.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I appreciate books of all genres, but my main squeeze is fiction. Depending on my mood it could be romance or suspense; lately I’ve been courting fantasy. When I don’t have my nose in a book, I am locating tasty paleo recipes, writing in-coherent poetry, and crafting with paper.