Ocean Wu has graduated from high school and, now looking to put the pressure to succeed and the heaviness of depression behind her, moves to to New York. She has been accepted to a very prestigious university and will receive a very nice scholarship.
But Ocean is still uncertain about what she wants to do, and now, out of the immediate shadow of her mother and with some unique freedom, she chooses to defer her first year of college for a year and decides to live off her savings and explore life and what New York has to offer. She moves in to an apartment with two strangers (though they become fast friends).
In a frightening moment of power outage while hoping to take a subway, Ocean meets a boy – Constantine “Constant” Brave. Constant is a graffiti artist, painting maps on subway walls. Ocean is perhaps more fascinated than attracted to Constant, but his apparent freedom is highly appealing to the girl searching for her own path as an adult.
The two stay connected primarily through a shared Google Docs file, writing notes and sharing their stories with one another. This endears Ocean even more to Constant Brave so she seeks him out in person where they become more intimate. But the ‘real’ Constant is not the boy she was imagining and Ocean’s new friends come to her rescue.
For months Ocean has kept the secret from her mother that school has been deferred and she’s been on her own, but it’s not a secret she can keep for long and ultimately she will need to let her mom know that, like Constant painting maps, she is also mapping out her own future.
This was a really nice slice-of-life novel of a voyage of discovery or a coming-of-age novel. We immediately feel as though we know Ocean and anyone who has experienced the angst of living up to someone else’s expectations (particularly a parent’s), can identify with her desire for independence.
Her journey is a bit more risky and dangerous than what most of us might face, but that danger is only a slight undertone through Amy Zhang’s book. Mostly we have Ocean’s journey – a creating a map as she charts new paths of discovery and new paths of love.
Ocean is the only character we really get to know in depth – her roommates have some background, but the reader doesn’t really get too familiar with them, which is slightly disappointing as they offer a safe haven for Ocean and it would be nice to have a little more insight to them.
Who Constant is is a mystery, but this is okay … that’s part of Ocean’s journey to discovery.
This book should be very popular with many YA readers – particularly those who are about to graduate from high school or are in their early years of college. So much of this coming of age story will resonate with these younger readers.
Looking for a good book? The Cartographers by Amy Zhang is a beautifully told story of a young woman breaking away from expectations from her family and mapping out her own path to the future.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Amy Zhang
hardcover, 320 pages