At Sea Point, Kate is a bartender at the Wharf, works in the library, and seeks to win back her ex, all the while dealing with long-standing resentments – namely, feeling eclipsed by her sister and bored that despite having outstanding academic qualifications , she couldn’t attend the expensive prep school Miles and Ziggy did. It is something of a theme; There are many elite college mentions and grades, scores, and honors that got various characters into it 16 years earlier.
Other threads of the plot, direct or implied: a developer turns city properties into McMansions. Ziggy’s beloved father left the company in debt. Also, will Kate and her former best friend reconcile? Will Kate mature as a “pretentious, shallow, aspiring snob who only cares about being rich and popular”? Will she sleep with Miles or Ziggy (or both)? Will other characters who have been asked to model, “never actually modeled” or who just look like models (or actresses) come to Sea Point?
On the writing.
In “Rock the Boat”, the characters don’t just talk. They “scream”, “howl”, “sneer”, “bark”, “giggle”, “huff”, “whisper on stage” and “joke”. The “glitter” in the moonlight, the “locked” eyes, the “smiles” are “adorable”, “mischievous”, “sheepish”.
Arguably more squeaky than clichés and hyperbole are lines that stand out for their clumsiness or disgust: “This acquaintance has kept him safe from the discouragement that pinches Kate’s shoulders to his ears and hollows him out. self-doubt in his brain like an apple core. ” Or, “The flood of protests that gushed from her fingers culminated in a three-point plan to get her from Jersey Zero to New York Hero just in time for Nessie’s wedding.” And one more: “Life was devastating, heartbreaking and hard, but it was carried by love and sprinkled with both comic relief and joy where you least expected it. With enough sunlight and the right angle, the broken glass still shone.
Now, I’m not a literary snob. I’m even (proudly!) From New Jersey in the armpits. But I need more sophisticated writing, as well as a more evolved protagonist than Kate Campbell, for a novel to land in my beach bag. Others may not agree, for the Coming Home books are appealing and “Rock the Boat” does not lack energy. And sophomore books are tricky. I can’t wait to see Dorey-Stein’s evolution in subject matter and presentation.