Lydia's Literary Lowdown Reviews: Chlorine & Chaos



Chlorine & Chaos may be a hard book, but it is also a necessary one.


Too often, insecurity is a weapon we hold by the blade.

Sage knows all too well how to wield such a weapon. Countless times in her painful past, she carved feeling into flesh when numbness took over. But she grew up. Got better. Graduated. And in the doing, Sage left all the pain behind her, easily managing her transition from runt of the litter to cream of the crop.

Sage made a promise to her dying mother, way back when. She promised she’d come back to her old town one day. That she’d take care of her older, special needs brother, Jimmy. And she does. But Sage doesn’t realize, as she starts her first day of work at her old high school, how quickly those old insecurities will rear their ugly heads again; how deeply they’ll make her want to carve them out of the skin they first inhabited.

It was all supposed to turn out differently for swimming Coach Brandon Tiggs. Back then, his athletic prowess fed his Olympic aspirations and he had Rosie, the hottest girl in school, on his arm. That was before the knee injury; before he settled down and married the girl everyone thought he wanted.

After the girl he loved had already ditched town.

Tired of hiding his love for Sage and sick at heart squiring Rosie around, Brandon begged her to take their relationship out in the open in high school. She’d refused, not daring to admit to him that her abusive foster father would make her pay dearly if he knew they were in love.

So when Sage walks back into his life seven years later, all Brandon can see is the second chance most people never get. Sage doesn’t disagree. But like scent, setting can be so very evocative, returning us in an instant to times and places – and yes, selves, too – that no longer exist.

That should no longer exist.

Damage, price, and power: these are the themes Jameson weaves with extraordinary skill and finesse throughout this stunning novel. Her message is profound: Brandon and Sage’s joint insecurities have the potential to damage both forever – unless they can find the power to overcome them. But there is a price to be paid in mastering any power great enough to damage body and soul; a price Sage in particular must pay. Back then, young Sage suffered the most at the hands of others, but in the here and now, it is adult Sage who forces herself to suffer. We are privy to all the ways and means she uses to lower herself to the level of those who were charged with raising her straight and proud. They failed. She need not. As Jameson does not, in this outstanding debut.

Oxygen is hard on our bodies, but we need it to live.

And Chlorine & Chaos is a hard book, but a necessary one.

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