Beach Read: Down the Shore

Courtesy Viking

A debut novel recalls summer in all its glory as it follows a New Jersey native and his friends from the Jersey Shore to Scotland.

For many, “the shore”—be it connected to a pond, a lake, an ocean or any body of water in between—conjures memories of summer in its purest form, when possibilities seem as limitless as the horizon.

Reality may ultimately distort that simplicity, but until it does the sense that anything is doable is as real as the sand between one’s toes. Such is the case with Tom Alison, the 18-year-old protagonist in Down the Shore (Viking Adult), the first novel by former departures editor Stan Parish.

Raised an upper-middle-class surfing junkie on the stretch of New Jersey’s Atlantic coast now internationally known as the Jersey Shore, Tom has a charmed life that grows more complicated the farther he moves from the water. Not long after he and his single mother move to Princeton so he can attend the prestigious Lawrenceville School—where he meets Clare Savage, the son of a disgraced Wall Street executive—Tom is busted for selling drugs on campus.

After graduation, and after Columbia University rescinds his admission, Tom seeks higher education abroad—specifically, at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews. Before shipping off, he returns to his native Long Beach Island, where he meets the beguiling Kelsey, a fellow Jersey Shore native and St. Andrews student. Clare, whose parents effectively abandon him when they go on the lam, eventually joins the two in Scotland, where Tom’s attempt at a new beginning is shrouded in an alcohol-and-drug-soaked haze, with characters both recognizable (Prince William, a 2005 graduate of St. Andrews) and repulsive (Clare’s father, Michael Savage) popping up along the way.

A New Jerseyan and St. Andrews alum himself, Parish writes about these worlds so confidently, it’s almost as if you’re watching his story, not reading it. His knack for imagery results in a compelling debut as memorable as the bygone summer excursions its title recalls. amazon.com.