Calm Undone is a young adult novel that tackles many of the issues relevant to young people today (feelings of loss, a dawning sense of self, and the awakening of attraction) with a gentle, accepting approach.
Seventeen-year-old Tyler wants three things from his summer at the family beach-house: Run along the beach to get ready for cross-country again in the fall. Wander the boardwalk with his cousin Liam. And more importantly, figure out how to move on with his life after his Dad’s death from a car crash – one that Tyler survives.
But nothing about this summer is right: Running isn’t fun anymore. Mom spends hours alone in her room. Liam constantly ditches him to spend time with Melissa — a girl he met on the beach. Which forces Tyler to spend time alone with Finn, a friend of Melissa’s who surfs. At first, he feels abandoned, but Finn is easy going, interested in hearing Tyler talk about running, and the only person in his life that doesn’t treat him like the “kid who lost his dad.” All of which help Tyler realize that up to now, Dad had been the closest thing he had to a best friend, and in order to move on he has to accept the type of love those left in his life — Mom, Liam, and even Finn — have to offer.
😢 emotional, sad
💀 death of character
🏳️🌈 queer character
🏝 summer at the beach
Calm Undone by Garth A. Fowler may be a short novel, but it packs in a lot of emotion. Ty is dealing with a great loss as he and his mother head to the family beach house. There was a terrible car accident that resulted in Ty being seriously injured and his father passing away.
When Ty arrives at the beach house he is overwhelmed with memories of his father and the time they spent together. I loved the flashbacks of their relationship and how detailed his memories were. I really felt it captured the way that one remembers a parent. As someone who has lost a parent, I really felt For Ty. Ty’s mourning and the way that he felt disconnected from the rest of his family felt very realistic to me.
As Ty struggles to come to terms with his loss, he finds that spending time with his cousin isn’t what it once was. He goes back and forth between feeling as though he’s the “kid who lost his dad” and then thinking that no one else is mourning the loss. I have been there, and I know that very feeling, so I applaud the author for taking someone so complex and working it into such a short work so effectively.
When Ty meets Finn, he discovers that it’s easy to spend time with him. He doesn’t feel the same pressure to talk… or not talk … but there’s, perhaps, more at work there. Grieving is complex and the author captures the way that it can be contradictory and confusing.
The blossoming of the relationship between Ty and Finn felt very organic to me. The time they spent surfing and hanging around together brought back many past summers. The author does a wonderful job of capturing the warmth, freedom and peacefulness of just “being” in summer.
While this is a short work of fiction, it accomplishes what it set out to do. I feel as though I read something important all wrapped up in the sweetness and warmth of a summer by the beach.
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) death of parent, descriptions of memory loss, descriptions of MVA, injury, recovery from injury, mourning, physical violence, outing (apologized for)
I received an ARC of Calm Undone by Garth A. Flower from Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.