Up From the Sea // by Leza Lowitz

//published 2016//

This is a beautiful story told from the perspective of a boy who survives Japan’s 2011 earthquake/tsunami, but loses almost everything to it.  Through the course of the story, he ends up connecting with people who were orphaned by the 9/11 attacks ten years earlier, and is able to find some healing and peace from the realization that tragedy can strike anyone, and that we can either allow ourselves to be destroyed by it, or to grow from it. This was a book I got in a random book box a long way back and isn’t my usual fare, but because the book is written in verse, it’s a pretty fast read.

While I found the book to be poignant and thought-provoking, I literally do no understand books written in verse.  For instance:

He embarrassed me so bad,
sometimes I wished
he’d go away.
And then,
one day,
he did.

Why can’t that just be written as a sentence??  “He embarrassed me so bad, sometimes I wished he’d go away.  And then, one day, he did.”  I literally get the same exact emotion out of that without my brain having to hiccup every two words.

Plus, when
I’m reading something
in verse
my brain
inserts very
random
pauses in
all of my internal
conversations.

It’s very annoying.

Throughout the story, Kai’s thoughts and emotions felt extremely realistic.  Just like everyone does when something horrible happens, he looks back at his life – although his has been relatively short – and recognizes times of selfishness or the way that he took many things for granted.  I was really struck by a point where they are all sleeping in the shelter just a day or two after the tsunami:

Next to me,
old folks
burrow into their
blankets,
murmur:
It’s just like the war,
when we had
nothing.

Obaachan [Grandmother] used to talk about
how hard things were
back then,

when a banana
was a luxury,
green tea was
champagne.

She told me all this
so I’d appreciate
what I had.

But I didn’t.
Until now.

As the story progresses, Kai has the opportunity to travel to America for a 9/11 anniversary event.  I loved when he and the other youths who were going were getting ready to leave, and were talking about what gifts they could take for their hosts.

So nice to think about
what to give
instead of
what’s been
taken away.

Overall, I found Up From the Sea to be a beautiful and thoughtful read.  However, the fact that it was in verse meant that it drove me absolutely insane when I was reading it, as it made me feel as though I was lurching through the text instead of being able to simply read it.

PS I have a beautiful hardcover copy of this book that is heading to the secondhand shop soon, so if you would like it mailed to you instead, please feel free to email me!!