Title: Fjord Blue
Author Name & Publisher: Nina Rossing (Harmony Ink Press)
Publication Date & Length: March 10, 2016 — 256 Pages
Seventeen-year-old Benjamin is shipped off to work on his grandparents’ remote farm in the fjords of Western Norway for the summer. It’s not like he didn’t deserve it. After all, he crashed his dad’s vintage Bonneville in a car-chase duel on a Miami freeway. Ben is mad at the world and not ready to reveal the reason for his bad behavior the past year, when he partied and got into fights to forget his attraction to his best friend’s hot cousin Dino.
Norway is cold and rainy, the farm is desolate and resists modernization, and the grandparents are quiet and religious. On to the scene waltzes Even, the eighteen-year-old farmhand, who counters Ben’s restlessness and complaints with friendship, fresh perspectives, and problems of his own.
With the mounting expectations of Ben taking over the farm one day, getting closer to Even becomes Ben’s only reason to stay put. As the friendship deepens, the two boys learn that secrets can turn into both beautiful and ugly truths, and that support can be found in unexpected places.
What a fantastic book! I am so jealous of the young adult books that today’s teens have access to. Gone are the preachy, condescending books of my own youth and in their place are stories by writers like Nina Rossing. Here, her protagonist isn’t terribly likeable, the adults in his life are flawed but human and this is more a story of the challenges of growing up than morality tale of any sort.
While it took me a good while to love Ben, I loved the story of the Cuban American/Norwegian boy from Miami who is sent to live with his traditional Norwegian grandparents after crashing his father’s classic car. Ben’s parents and grandparents are refreshingly well developed and surprisingly unpredictable. Even, his co-worker is a complex and confusing love interest for Ben, struggling with his own issues and just as insecure as Ben in many ways.
Fans of John Green and David Levithan will enjoy these complex characters but this is a quieter, more thoughtful book. Neither Even or Ben is inclined towards precocious literary references or clever musings about the meaning of life. For me, the subtlety of the relationships and the stilted conversations here are more real and Ben’s flickering self confidence resonates more deeply.
The Norwegian setting is wonderful. Isolated and austere, the contrast with Miami is sharp and the quiet environs and hard physical labour force Ben to grow up and confront some harsh truths.
And the romance. Somehow, Nina Rossing has perfectly captured the magic of a first crush, a summer romance and all the heightened sensations that come with first experiences. While the sexual content isn’t graphic, it is moving and the relationship between the two young men is just beautiful.