Book Reviews

Review: “Words in Deep Blue,” Cath Crowley

September 11, 2016

I received this book for free from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: “Words in Deep Blue,” Cath CrowleyWords in Deep Blueby Cath Crowley
Series: Standalone
Published by Pan Macmillan on August, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Loss & Grief
Pages: 352
Source: Pan Macmillan Australia
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

This is a love story.

It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.

It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.

Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

Words in Deep Blue was a beautifully written story about loss, first loves and realising what makes you happy. While it is my first novel by Cath Crowley, it certainly won’t be my last.

 “Henry and I had met years ago in the primary school car pool. He was reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a beautiful book with soft pencil moons.”

Told from a dual POV, Words in Deep Blue also uses small letters to both on-page and off-page characters which really makes the emotions in this book hard-hitting. This book feels so genuine and real that it’s hard to remember at times that these characters are fictional.

Set in Melbourne, Words in Deep Blue is a nod to Australians living in the city and on the coast. While there isn’t a lot of Aussie slang or references that would make your head spin, the book still feels as if it could be about your neighbours or friends. I really enjoyed the subtle Australian flavour in this one and it reminded me about why I love reading Aussie YA so much.

Words in Deep Blue chronicles Rachel and Henry – meeting again after three years apart. Once best friends, Rachel and Henry haven’t spoken at all since Rachel moved away. Why? Rachel decided to declare her feelings for Henry in the form of a letter and she never heard back from him. Things are further complicated by Henry’s obsession with his on and off again girlfriend, Amy.

 “Because you owe me an apocalypse.”

Yes, it’s a love story – but it’s also an extremely complicated one. Rachel is still reeling from the death of her brother, Cal, and trying to start a new life. She’s trying to figure out how to become the Rachel she was before his death – the Rachel that got straight A’s and loved to swim. Now a high-school dropout, Rachel has to figure out what matters to her.

Henry, on the other hand, is only eager to jump back into a relationship with a girl who cares little for his feelings. Happy that his former best friend Rachel is back (and stumped at why she’s cold towards him) he’s also preoccupied with fixing things with Amy. He thinks that once his family sells their pride and joy – Howling Books – that he’ll finally be the man Amy wants him to be. He doesn’t realise that he’s sacrificing who he is for someone that doesn’t deserve it.

In the midst of all this, Henry’s outcast sister George is also figuring out what it means to be in love. She’s been writing to a mysterious boy in the pages of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s a nice little side story with a lot of emotional punch.

 “I like the thought that Michael’s copy of Great Expectations now belongs to someone else. They are reading Michael’s thoughts – his passion for Sophia, in the passion Pip had for Estella. His passion is there in his underlining, in his hnotes, in the inscription on the title page.”

What I loved most about Words in Deep Blue was how much the importance of books and words coloured the pages. I’ve seen this book described as a ‘love letter to books’ and it’s exactly that. I wanted to dive right into the pages and lay around Howling Books as Henry and Rachel did, finding little notes between the pages of the Letter Library and imagining their writers.

Henry was infuriating at times (my god, how awful was Amy and yet he insisted he was in love with her!) but I did think that it was a great example of how boys, just as girls, can be blindsided by the wrong person. All the relationships in this book were authentic and spot on.

As I said, this is my first Cath Crowley book, but it won’t be my last. If you’re after a poignant and sweet story about love and loss, you can’t go past Words in Deep Blue. It’s for all the book lovers out there.

About Cath Crowley

Cath Crowley is a young adult author published in Australia and internationally. In 2011, her book 'Graffiti Moon' won the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, the Ethel Turner Award for Young People's Literature, and was named an honour book in the Children's Book Council, Book of the Year. Cath writes and teaches in Melbourne.


  • Reply verushka November 27, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    I’ve only recently heard of this book so I’m so thrilled to see you revewing — and that it sounds amazing!

  • Reply Kyra Morris September 11, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Umm this books sounds AMAZING, how have I not read it yet??! I’m supposed to be on a book buying ban but I think I’m going to order my a copy right now haha! Great review!

  • Reply Angel @Angel Reads September 11, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Totally agree with everything that you said here. It was such a beautiful book and now the only hard thing is to decide which book of Cath Crowley’s to read next.
    Thanks for the review.

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