Fourteen year old James Turner has one passion in life- whales. He reads about them online, watches every type of whale-related media from Whale Wars to Jacques Cousteau documentaries, and has even adopted his own whale, Salt, through the Greater New England Whale Conservatory. Unfortunately, his fixation on aquatic mammals (as opposed to partying and pop culture), has isolated him from his fellow freshmen. James is a social outcast.
When James' adopted whale Salt suddenly veers off his migration path, James has no one else to contact but Darren Olmstead, an aspiring filmmaker and recent college graduate who volunteered at the middle school’s Social Skills group. James has Darren's e-mail address, and so begins a friendship and a story that includes whale rights advocacy, dating advice, yeti suits, amateur documentaries, vanilla lattes, and addresses ending in @gmail.com. And maybe, just maybe, a happy ending for once.
This book was pretty darn good, not amazing, but definitely worth the read. The thing that really made this book stand out to me was the e-mail format. Everything that you read is presented as the different characters writing to each other across the web. I found that this really helped define and humanize characters; socially awkward James writes his e-mails like formal letters for the majority of the book, while Darren tends to use more slang, and Sara (the juvenile arthritic), writes almost exclusively in shorthand. But even though the e-mail format was something that I liked about the book, it also got in the way from time to time because the only information you get is from characters talking to each other, instead of from a narrator addressing the reader. Characters will mention certain events that the reader doesn’t know about, and even though everything is eventually expained, you’re still left with that moment of “Hang on, did I miss something?” The author also tends to start writing from viewpoints of random minor characters that you don’t really care about. Sometimes these are fun to read, but I honestly don’t need or want to know anything else about that one barista that Darren kind-of-flirted with when he was in charge of picking up coffee for his boss.
The things that bothered me about this book were pretty minor compared to all the pros, so I’m giving it 4/5 stars. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a quick, fun read with an upbeat message and unique characters.