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Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite
“Is it giving up when it is inevitable…?” captures the frame of mind of the young protagonist, Samuel Saber, as the reader meets him in South Coast Son by Claire Merchant, and there couldn’t be a better premise and hook for a story that will enthrall fans of coming-of-age and sports. Samuel Saber is from a well-to-do family and people imagine it's an easy life for him. He is a marvel when it comes to minor league football and there are hopes he will wind up in the major league. He is a simple guy with a few dreams, but nothing seems to work the way he wants it. First, his love life is complicated after a breakup with Paige. Second, the scandals surrounding his father and what the media reports make things even more complicated for him. Can he navigate these relationships and achieve his dreams, however modest they are?
The plot may be simple, but the author’s ingenuity in writing complex characters and relationships lifts the quality of this story and the writing. The prose is lyrical and captivating, littered with enticing dialogues that are beautifully crafted and reflect the world of the characters. I enjoyed the banter of the teenage characters, the drama, and the exploration of the inner world of young Sam. The complexities in the relationships, like Sam breaking up with Paige to be with Isobel while Isobel is still with Elliot, are very crucial in deepening the characters. The story is told in the first-person narrative voice and it captures the point of view of Samuel Saber brilliantly. South Coast Son is one of those books that intelligently demonstrates the dynamics in the world of teenagers, the fever of sports, and complicated relationships while introducing readers to interesting and elaborately developed characters. I can clearly see and feel my younger self in these characters and in the world that Claire Merchant has created.