Rating: OMG (Oh My Greatness)
How do I begin to describe Navigating Early? Well, I guess this is as best a start as any. Years ago when I was preparing for the LSAT, I enrolled in a preparation course at Georgia State University. The course was taught by a math professor who reduced all words to numbers or letters in a math equation; in which he would then proceed to solve. I sat stupefied, inwardly shouting, I read words! WORDS! My bibliophilic mind could not grasp this alpha to numeric metamorphosis. Needless to say, my brain never converged with the professor's tactics on the best approach to the Logic Games and Analytical Reasoning sections.
That said, Early Auden, the boy who "read[s] numbers as if it's a story" (266) fascinated me. Early could never make me blanch with his numerical transformations, but only envision a world painted in vivid hues, subdued pastels, vibrant plaids,and bold prints. Navigating Early is a poignant tale about friendship, coping with loss, and self-discovery. I read it in one sitting. What touched me was Early's sincerity, earnestness, candidness, and most importantly his ability to see the universe's magic. Throughout the novel, I found the interspersion of the "Story of Pi" riveting, as well as, Early's way to explain things he couldn't easily justify. To Jack, everything about Early is bizarre. Yet, unlike his classmates and the school faculty, Jack does not easily dismiss Early simply because he is different.
Early's and Jack's adventure along the Appalachian Trail illustrates the notion that whatever you may be searching for or running from is right there with you...running from you within you...searching for you within you. Life is neither static nor unchanging. It's constantly moving like the water--fluid--even when it seems unmoving, ripples flow underneath the still water. Nothing in life is certain. The only certainty rests in life's ambiguity. Only when you take a risk to discover does the once hidden become visible.
The innocence of this book is such a gift. Vanderpool engaged my emotions on every level. Her ability to capture character depth left me wanting more. Readers will fall in love with Navigating Early. What is there not to love? It has an endearing quality, adventure, true friendship, pirates, and above all else imagination.
Random tidbit: Another reason I love Early is because it's also my father's name.
There were so many lines I from this novel, but here are my absolute favorites.
"Can you teach me to read numbers?' I asked. 'I don't think it's something you can learn. Nobody taught me. I've always seen numbers differently than most people. [...] For me, they are blue and purple and sand and ocean and rough and smooth and loud and whispering, all at the same time." (125) (Sidebar: How often do we see something different from others and because of that unusual outlook or perspective are deemed strange?)
"What was he? Some kind of second-rate genie?" (47)
"[...] Pi realized he knew only what the ocean had let him know. What it had deemed necessary for him to know. But now--now that the ocean had allowed him in, it enveloped him with the fury and passion of a master teacher." (67)
"Maybe it's like listening to music," I said. "How it can make you feel things without any words." (126)
"Early had given me a glimpse into what he saw and heard and felt through his numbers. And there was a beauty in it that was warm and real." (127)
"We rowed along in a contented quiet, listening to the sounds of all the colors around us." (127)
"I told him to come back with me. That he would be all right. He was raining inside and there was no Billie Holiday. No music at all. Just emptiness." (268)
"Our stories are all intertwined. It's just a matter of connecting the dots." (294)