When thirteen-year-old Ava is surfing with her best friend Phoenix, nothing else matters. She can forget it all---her mother making her volunteer at the hospital she works at to gain experience in a career she doesn't want, the bullies at the beach who think a teenage Persian American doesn't belong on their shore, her father's mailed birthday present coming unsurprisingly late again, the nagging, neverending feeling that she doesn't belong. It all fades away, replaced by sparkling waves and the one person who makes her feel at home, who she can count on to trade mixtapes and surfing tips with, and who encourages her love of singing. Laughing with her friends on the beach, singing, Rumi's poems--they remind her that she, too, has a place in this world.
When Phoenix's lymphoma resurfaces, Ava must draw on every bit of resilience and hope within her to help him fight for survival. It feels like everything is falling apart--but as she and Phoenix have always reminded each other, surfboards ready, poised for the next wave: if you don't take the drop, you miss the ride.
Eloquent, heart-wrenching, and tender, Wave is a standout for several reasons. Firstly, Ava is a believable, multilayered protagonist; despite differing ages, decades, and interests, her insecurities and victories ring piercingly true to me as she grapples with the tension between her own vision for her life and future and those which others push her toward. The characters are deftly drawn and distinct, and the relationships between them truly make Wave shine; the connection Ava develops with an elderly, poetry-loving patient is particularly touching, while her bond with Phoenix centers and grounds the story---just as it does Ava herself. I've never surfed (personally, I think it sounds terrifying!), but Farid's exquisite free verse turns the ocean into a friend, a sparkling world so beautiful that I found myself rereading passages again and again, and feeling the sea to be a home, just as it is to Ava. And the story's moving, lyrical exploration of grief and healing mark it as a modern Bridge to Terabithia, one perfect for book groups and discussions. In a word: gorgeous. I would highly recommend Wave to readers ages eleven and up.