A gripping YA novel, based on the true story of a survivor of the 2004 Asian tsunami
11 July, 2010. Pieter (23) is watching the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain when he receives a friendship request on Facebook from Elin, a Swedish girl. This catapults him five and half years back into the past to a period of voluntary work in Sri Lanka, when he spent the best Christmas Eve of his life with Elin, on the beach, in the waves. The next morning, that same sea engulfed coastal areas across Asia.
Gideon Samson has written a compelling young-adult novel based on the experiences of Julius ’t Hart, a young Dutchman who lived through the tsunami of over ten years ago. What makes this book so great is that it not only presents a gripping account of the disaster, but also a sensitive and believable portrait of a student who is determined to forget, but ultimately can’t run away from what happened.
After his school exams, Pieter sees his future as predictable, like a “neatly dug-out canal” (there are plenty of water metaphors in the book). So he decides to go in search of adventure. In Sri Lanka he falls in love for the first time, with Elin. Samson presents this relationship through scintillating descriptions: Pieter had always thought kissing was “like brushing your teeth and sex was like painting a wall”, but being in love with Elin “is like winning the lottery without even knowing you were taking part.”
The contrast with the catastrophe that follows couldn’t be more dramatic. Samson doesn’t go for big emotions, though, but instead subtly shows how the disaster slowly takes hold of Pieter. As the water comes bursting into his hotel room, his first thought is, “What the…?! All my stuff’s getting wet!” It’s not until much later that the gravity of the situation dawns on him, when he discovers that Elin’s friend is missing and he sees a child’s body in the mud at the side of the road. These are impressions that he hides away deep inside when he returns home to Amsterdam, but they come bursting back to the surface when Elin gets in touch.