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In the Break    by Jack Lopez order for
In the Break
by Jack Lopez
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Juan and his best friend Jamie live in southern California. They're crazy about surfing and both are very skilled at it. The pair have been friends since kindergarten, but Jamie changed after his father died in a tragic car accident, and even more after his mother remarried - the abusive Frederick whom the boys call 'F'.

One Sunday morning they leave to surf at 6:30 a.m. - in Jamie's stepfather's car, which he's forbidden to take. The surfing is great, but the consequences spiral steadily further and further out of control. Jamie's elder sister Amber also shows up at the beach - Juan has a crush on her but she's been dating Robert seriously for years, though they seem to be in conflict now. Then 'F' shows up. Though understandably angry, he's out of control, screaming at Jamie and hitting him. Juan feels sick for not defending his friend.

Later that night, Amber shows up at Juan's house asking for help. Jamie's in big trouble - he's beaten up his stepfather and put him in hospital. Juan take his mother's car and drives his friend and Amber south. They take their surfboards, and the journey turns into a Thelma & Louise type flight from the law, combined with a surfing vacation. Juan had initially planned to set his friend up in his aunt's trailer in San Rafael and then drive home with Amber, but the trailer's in use, so they continue to Mexico.

Juan tells us that when he surfs 'there's a second, a moment frozen in eternity, when you're not going forward and you're not going down the face of the wave, just before you take the drop, that moment when you are frozen, time has stopped ... your existence MEANS something.' The trio share many such moments and Juan and Amber become close. In Mexico, a local offers to take them by boat to 'find the perfect wave' on an island with amazing surfing. Amber doesn't want to go but the others persuade her.

The surfing is spectacular and they're magically surrounded by dolphins. But, of course, the carefree trip leads to disaster, and a shell-shocked Juan ends up coming to terms with what happened - and facing the consequences - on his own. In the Break is a well-told tale of friendship - and the limits that should be set on loyalty to friends and on impulsive actions.

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