The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal
Publishers: Albert Whitman and Company
Published Date: March 1st 2012
From: ARC courtesy of Net Galley and Publishers
My rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:It's an unsettled summer for Sirena. Back in Texas, her family's splitting apart, but here in Rhode Island, at the cottage of her aunt, it's a different world. There are long days at the beach and intriguing encounters with Pilot, the lifeguard with shamanic skills. Sirena explores her obsession with Pilot and discovers his mysterious--almost magical--gifts.
I've recently read a whole plethora of paranormals so I fancied a nice light romance for my next read. To fit the picture I chose The Lifeguard. A summer romance about a hot lifeguard. What could go wrong?
The background of the story is that Sirena has to move away for the summer while her parents sort out their divorce. They have to sell the family, Mum and Dad have to find new houses each, all the furniture to divide...you know, the messy stuff.
As a character, Sirena is full of anger, woe and everything else in between. I almost imagine her like a balloon full of water. Any moment she could pop and the result could be messy! In the beginning at Aunt Ellie's she's miserable, a little bored, a little ungrateful too to her Aunt, and incredibly unhappy. The writing tone captured is perfect. We see through various conversations how badly Sirena is coping. More so in letters written to her BFF (who we never meet). The letters provide our best insight into how Sirena is feeling, and what is exactly going on in her mind.
She meets Antonio, an 80-year-old artist and as Sirena is a budding artist herself, they get to talk, sit, and eventually paint together. Antonio is her guru, mentor, and message board all at the same time. He knows things, he understands and he heals her with his wise words.
Sirena's focus for much of the book is her utter adoration of Pilot, the lifeguard. I don't think I've ever read a book where the main character drools so much over a love interest. Pages and pages filled with descriptions about his ripped body, the blond of his hair and the green of his eyes. How aware she is of him whenever she visits the beach. In addition, how their eye contact stays fixed for paragraphs without breaking. Pilot is never truly unveiled to us in the character sense. For instance, I have no idea if he has a sense of humour because his sentences are few and far between. I have no idea about the clothes he wears when he isn't life guarding because we never hear about it.
Aunt Ellie and Will are great as characters and the addition of Mike being the friend/boyfriend of Ellie adds a bit of substance to the vision I have of her.
The story is written in present first person. Two things that stick out from the beginning are that the tone didn't change. At the start, Sirena is tremendously angry and this continues throughout. Even when she discovers Pilot and has her 'moments' with him, I never got the feeling she was happy and this didn't ring true. Even toward the end when the big (little) reveals were uncovered, the emotion didn't bubble over, in fact, it stayed flat. The second point that stuck out was the writing style. This is one of those vague books that hints of occurrences but then leaves you at the end of a chapter. For instance Pilot rescuing Sirena on a surfboard. They have this moment; he whispers her name after arching his back and then...end of chapter. That's it! We don't get any juicy stuff or even dialogue. It happened so often I actually got a little bored by the end. This is a harsh criticism but so many books I've read have this style. I don't know whether editors just cut, cut, cut away at the author’s manuscript and all that’s left is the bare bones. Alternatively, the author just felt we needed nothing more. However, I wanted more.
The supernatural featured as an odd addition to the story. In my opinion it was out of place and unnecessary. The back-story is never wholly discussed (writing style) and the shamanism's that could have given depth to the whole Pilot/Antonio phenomena just left us hanging.
Overall, this is a light, fluffy read. There is a lot of fluff. I enjoyed the story, it wasn't anything wow-worthy, and the settings of Rhode Island beach is a backdrop to draw you in. For any young adult facing a similar situation I'm sure there are lessons learned from reading this but apart from that it was just okay.
You can reach Deborah Blumenthal here: