Hey everyone! Today I’m sharing with you all a requested review of Sea Breeze Academy by Bryant Loney. I was sent an ARC of the book by Verona Booksellers in exchange for an honest review, and honestly? This book was…interesting. Let’s get into it.
Chapter Length: ✭✭✭
Cliche Count: ✭✭✭✭✭
Overall Rating: ✭✭
Synopsis: A group of boarding school teens in season five of a Cali-based sitcom begin to realize they are in a TV show. A missing student, or maybe several. Embedded marketing, sushi, token friends, and cacti. The sound of the Pacific waves in the background. Smothering darkness. The threat of Alaska. Another perfect, perfect day. Happiness lives here.
Brooklyn, Matthew, and the gang are ready to rock their last few weeks of junior year at their elite boarding school on the California coast. But something is amiss. In the fifth and potentially last season of this award-winning television series, the struggle between truth and network censorship just might destroy their bond once and for all. Can they survive another season of love, mystery, and adolescent angst on the sunny West Coast? Will life ever be normal again?
Experimental and subversive, Sea Breeze Academy is a smart love letter to the Nickelodeon and Disney Channel sitcoms you grew up with. Are you ready?
Favorite Quote: “We used to be so close. All of us. Before kids were taken away in the back of vans and high school girls had to model lingerie” (234)
So let me reiterate because this is a love/hate relationship I have with Bryant’s books: they’re super odd. Usually, the strangeness of his books usually end up leading up to a grand moment of realization, and all of a sudden, everything makes sense. In SBA, however, I didn’t get that moment. It kind of felt like I read a whole book and only after careful thought at the end did I understand a word I read. Anyway, let’s get into the specific pros and cons.
→ There is a whole satirical slew of contemporary issues in the book. I mean things from polyamory to animal testing to American consumerism to religion, etc. Bryant Loney’s books always seem to have some type of social issue in them.
→ There is some fun and light-hearted humor exchanged between the characters from time to time that gives the book a not-so-confusing-and-heavy feeling. Like a breath of fresh air, I suppose in these moments we’re supposed to find the whole “love letter to the Nickelodeon and Disney Channel sitcoms you grew up with” aspect of the book.
→ The cover? Yes. It’s beautiful.
→ The concept of a tv show inside of a book is completely new to me. I think it was an interesting approach, but I do have some cons about it that I will mention in a moment.
→ There is a lesson in the book that I picked out, and that is the effects of giving into the pressure to conform. Brooklyn completely loses herself by trying so hard to play the role of the popular and sexy main character of the book (or show), and Virgo is bulimic because she’s worried about being “the fat roommate.” This, again, is Bryant’s touch on social issues, and I enjoyed it.
→ Although I’m about to also complain about this in a moment, I do like the plot twists in this book…in retrospect.Only after finishing the book do I finally understand why the kid at the beginning of the book disappears, and why Miki and co are hiding out under the tunnels of the school. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but:
→ I honestly think that Bryant tried too hard to make this book mysterious. I get that SBA is supposed to be perfect on the outside, flawed and twisted on the inside, but I think I personally would have figured it out sooner if there wasn’t so much ambiguity in the characters’ actions. It felt like one odd thing happened and everyone ignored it. Then another odd thing, and everyone still ignored it. I sense that the intention of this was to make the reader begin to question everything along with Matthew, but for me, it just confused the absolute crap out of me. I didn’t really understand why these things were important because I was so sidetracked by how weird and shallow everyone else was acting, which is why I said previously that I like the plot twists in retrospect. In other words, the overly obscure nature of the book took away from my understanding of the plot.
→ Onto characters, I’m sad to say that unfortunately, they all kind of blended to me. The only people I could pick out and actively engage in is, of course, Matthew and Brooklyn. Everyone else? Who are they and why are they here? Everyone else felt like filler characters just for the sake of not having Brooklyn and Matthew do all of the talking throughout the novel. But we never really learned anything significant about them except for the fact that one is rich and another is Muslim…simply for the sake of being religious? I didn’t like the majority of the characters at all.
→ And to add the con side of the whole “tv show inside of a book” concept, the execution of this was less than great. As another reviewer mentioned, we start on season 5 of the show? What I want to know is how is it season 5 and all of a sudden Brooklyn and Matthew completely take over? Who was before them, and why is there no context? (I also might be being a tad bit petty here, but if this show has lasted 5 seasons, you’d think the management would’ve came up with better ways to get rid of previous or fired characters…just saying).
→ Additionally, the format of the book may be something hard to get used to because it’s in the form of a script. I actually didn’t mind this personally because it reminded me that “hey, this is supposed to be a tv show!” but for others, it’s definitely something you’ll want to know beforehand.
→ Lastly, there’s this weird “person one and person two” thing going on between the “episodes”. They’re never named, and most of the things they say have no context or no meaning to the actual plot. The above reviewer I mentioned worked out that they’re probably tech guys for the show, but they just seem superfluous to the book overall.
In all, I have a love/hate relationship with this book. Even though it’s very much a Bryant Loney style book, I didn’t have that “ah hah!” moment I got from his previous ones. He is known to write very odd and “pretty on the outside, ugly on the inside” type of books, and while I see where he tried to do the same thing with SBA, I think the execution just wasn’t as crisp as it was with To Hear the Ocean Sigh or Take Me to the Cat, because there was way too much emphasis on the “pretty” parts that the “ugly” parts didn’t easily make sense. Nevertheless, it was still an interesting read to me because I’ve only ever read a book in the form of a script once before, and regardless of the obscurity, I still enjoyed the playful moments.
Thank you again to Verona Booksellers for sending me the book!