Tai Talagi and Ollie Birkstrom have been inseparable since they met as kids surfing the North Shore. Now they live with their best friends in a pulled-together family, sharing life and the saltwater in their veins. Tai’s spent years setting aside his feelings for Ollie, but when Ollie’s pro surfing aspirations come to fruition, their steady world shifts. Is the relationship worth risking everything for a chance at something terrifying and beautiful and altogether new?
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This story was lovely. I adored Tai and Ollie. They are perfect for each other. You can tell from the first page they’re going to be together and it’s going to be beautiful. The cast of characters around these two makes the perfect family. They all come alive and enrich the story. I loved how the surfing was an integral part of the story. The surfing scenes were amazingly written. I felt like I was there on the beach watching Ollie surf or in the pipe with him.
Ollie was adorably clueless. He had his own idiosyncrasies that kept him comfortable around people. But the way Tai supports and protects him in those situations is sweet. I enjoyed watching Ollie fall in love without realizing it until far later than most would. He has no experience with those kinds of emotions and he works out his feelings in a completely Ollie way. But you can tell when he’s in the water he’s in his element. All of his issues disappear. Especially when he’s surfing for fun.
I loved Tai. He hurt my heart with how in love he was with Ollie but afraid to tell him. Everything he did was to help Ollie in some way. But he was still able to be his own person at the same time. You could feel his emotions so clearly throughout the story. You can feel his passion for surfing and shaping boards. He is destined for wonderful things alongside Ollie.
I would have liked Ollie and Tai to communicate better sooner than they did. It dragged out just a bit for my taste. However they way they work things out in the end was so beautiful. They are adorably in love and I enjoyed seeing them not afraid to show it anymore.
The other members of Ollie and Tai’s family that live with them in The Blue House were wonderful. Hannah, Sunny, and Jaime were so much fun to see in the story. The way Jaime fights with Ollie because they’re brothers but both secretly still care. The way Hannah and Sunny are quirky but have their stuff together the most in the best unexpected ways. How they all five look out for each other no matter what and want to ensure they’re all happy and have a place in the world.
I enjoyed Ms. Henson’s voice and storytelling ability. She pulled me in quickly and didn’t let my attention go until the story was over. I hope to read more by her in the future because I will definitely read more works by her.
Four and a half
I’m so excited for Ollie to stop by today. He has a letter to a younger version of himself he wants to share. He has some wise things to say to himself. However I agree with his plans to not send it. Read and enjoy!
One of the reporters yelled out today “Ollie, what would you tell yourself from five years ago.” I blanked on an answer, it’s kind of a personal question and my mom died 5 years ago so I was in a bad place. But it stuck with me. I figured I’d say “It’ll all be okay.” But Sunny says I have to say more than that. So here goes.
Dear 17 year old me,
You won’t stop missing her, but the pain will be different. It’ll dull in a good way. Try to remember that Jaime’s scared and hurt and he’s not doing it *to* you.
The ocean won’t change, but you will. And sometimes that’s going to be tough. But you’ll make it through and you’ll be better – a better surfer and a better person, for it.
Don’t forget to value Tai. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on him. He’s important. He’s irreplaceable.
Take care, bro,
From 22 year old me.
But I wouldn’t send it. Because what if that one butterfly wing, those few words, somehow changed a tiny thing and that had a ripple effect that changed everything. I’d live through it again, not mom dying but the rest of it, for the chance at the life I have now.
Across from them, one of the Brazilians plays guitar. Ollie doesn’t recognize the song even when a couple of others sing along. The beach is wider and the sand finer than on the North Shore, but every beach is a little like home. Ollie misses the Blue House; he misses the surf and the palms and the shoreline he knows so well. He misses Jaime and Sunny and Hannah. Still, though he’s as far from home as he’s ever been, Ollie’s comfortable. These are his people, too. He leans back on his arms and looks up into the dark.
He’s watched the night sky since he was a little kid, but down here in the Southern Hemisphere he doesn’t recognize the hundreds upon hundreds of stars. The Southern Cross is up there. Ollie tries to orient himself.
Tai shifts toward him, then looks up and follows Ollie’s gaze. The warmth of Tai’s body settles into Ollie’s heart, grounds him. Ollie leans into him a little, and their arms brush to the elbow. The contact simmers in the air between them.
Unexpectedly, Ollie knows what he wants. “Come back to the hotel,” he says quietly to Tai. He pitches his voice low. It hums across the tiny space between them. No one else can hear him over the pounding surf and the sound of the music. It’s easy to be bold in the dark of a beach where Ollie’s never been before. He’s shocked by that same boldness.
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Into the Blue is her first novel.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/penewrites/
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Thank you so much, Molly! Both for hosting and for your delightful review! I’m so glad my boys worked for you, and their love was clear. Thanks for giving Ollie a chance to be a bit introspective too!
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