Review: Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2009)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Price: $12.23 from Amazon
Science, spiritualism, history, and romance intertwine in Suzanne Weyn's newest novel. Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla's inventions dooms them...and one could save them.

Review: I picked out Distant Waves because it dealt with the Titanic (love!), and the book was definitely interesting, which, I know, is a very vague term. I say interesting because that can be interpreted two ways, in a good way or a bad way, which basically sums up the mixed feelings I had about this book.

To start off with the negative, the first half was a bit dull. I got impatient to have something, anything happen, and didn't really know where the story was headed. Obviously, I knew that the book was ultimately going to talk about the incident of the Titanic, but for a good half-portion of the book, that really all seemed like an introduction to me, I really felt like the story was never going to get anywhere because nothing exciting happened. And by exciting I mean a wide variety of things, from a cliff-dive to a turning point to Jane, the main girl, simply getting it on with some boy or another.

Another thing that detracted from, but also somehow added to, my reading experience was the massive amount of historical facts. It was, in a way, a pitfall because sometimes I would find myself confused when trying to follow who did what, who invented what, and so on. The historical information was a plus because it was well-integrated and made the story feel more realistic, and, when I got it, it was actually quite clever of Suzanne Weyn! However, I think there is a fine balance between interesting tidbits of knowledge versus so much information that it distracts the reader and diverts his/her attention, and I think Suzanne might have put in a bit too much information here. But for history nuts, please rejoice!

I think the mass of historical facts also prevented me from relating to Jane as much as I could have, with her family problems and such. I didn't really have any standout feelings about Jane; she was okay, and I didn't really empathize or sympathize with her. Her family definitely was unique in that Jane's mother and her twin sisters were mediums, people able to contact the spiritual world. The concepts of mediums and psychics definitely play a prominent part in the book, and I liked how Suzanne manipulated the ideas to fit the plot. The plot was, again, a little slow in the beginning, where it concentrated a lot on the ability to contact the spiritual world, but things picked up towards the end, once Jane and some others were actually on the Titanic. I had an idea of how events were going to turn out, but I was still sitting on the edge of my seat begging the characters to realize the impending doom they faced. And the ending wasn't exactly happily-ever-after for everyone, but it was one that left me satisfied and pleased with the results.

Bottom Line: Distant Waves was definitely a book I'd recommend for young adult readers that really like historical fiction. I'm still amazed by how much historical information the Suzanne managed to pack into this one book and how much research must have gone into it! For me, personally, this book was an "interesting" read, in that it explored the possibilities of the spiritual world, and mildly enjoyable; not something that I'll be rereading soon, but still worth a bit of my time. If you can last through the first half, I'd say that you will enjoy the second half. I might read some of Suzanne's future works, and basically: the Titanic and love. What's not to like about those two aspects? :)