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The Line Tender, Kate Allen

If you like sharks and deep narratives on how we handle grief and change in youth than this is the book for you! I found this book on one of my big library hauls. The cover alone is stunning and when I did my usual flip through the first few pages, I found that each chapter heading comes with beautiful, huge, shark artwork that, honestly, I couldn’t get enough of. What a gem. 

What’s the Book?

The Line Tender is a coming of age story that follows a young Lucy Everhart as she tries to navigate grief, loss, and change, all through the lens of exploring the research her marine-biologist mother left behind. Lucy’s already unsure world becomes even more so after a tragedy thrusts her back into the middle of her unresolved grief and forces her to ask even bigger questions about herself and those around her. 

Lucy’s curiosity is the driving force behind the narrative. While she may be on a quest to compel those around her to finish the research work her mother started, she’s also just as insatiable in the wake of the tragedy. It’s not enough for her to just accept what happened and move on. She needs to understand why, but even asking those questions drives her deeper into her grief. 

Why It’s a Top Ten

This book nabbed me right away and I knew from the start that I had a winner on my hands. I also knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep until I finished it, which I didn’t. Allen’s writing style flows so quickly and steadily, a reader can’t help but keep turning the pages with total disregard for the passage of time. Even with all those beautiful chapter headings offering a place to stop, I just couldn’t do it. The narrative clips along with that tempting “just one more chapter.” quality we all look for in a good book. 

What’s particularly remarkable about the Line Tender is the way Allen approaches grief. You see it in the way the adults look at Lucy when they think she isn’t watching, the way they aren’t separate tragedies but one jumbled mess, or the way Lucy’s frustration grows with the knowledge that some of her questions simply aren’t going to be answered. Grief is just one of those subjects that you either know how to write about or don’t, and Kate Allen knows how to write about it. 

What’s more, this book leaves room for all the little beats of grief. All those little moments that would normally be on the chopping block in favor of more dramatic narrative are placed proudly in the story and in doing so they pack a real punch. Grief isn’t in the large, demonstrative moments. It’s in the little day to day pains that make life difficult to bear. Allen deftly has a finger on this pulse throughout her book and it shows in the quality of her storytelling. 

The strength of The Line Tender lies in its ability to ask big questions in the little moments, an action that makes the story accessible and yet still emotionally powerful. It takes a skilled writer to ask the big question like what do you do when the circle of grief starts all over again? What do you do when some of life’s sentences don’t get a period? What do you do when some problems can’t be undone? Allen unabashedly asks all these questions but trusts her readers to come to their own conclusions. 

So if you’re looking to read about sharks and get emotionally punched in the gut, The Line Tender is the book for you.

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