About the book

Second-hand bookshops are full of mysteries

This is a love story.

It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets, to words.

It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.

Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal. She's looking for the future in the books people love, and the words that they leave behind.

Sometimes you need the poets

Book cover of Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Published by: 
Pan Macmillan Australia

About the author


Cath Crowley is a young adult author published in Australia and internationally. She is the author of The Gracie Faltrain trilogy, Chasing Charlie Duskin, and Graffiti Moon. In 2011, Graffiti Moon won the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, the Ethel Turner Award for Young People's Literature, and was named an Honour Book in the Children's Book Council, Book of the Year. Cath lives in Ballarat, Victoria.

Image of author Cath Crowley

Judges’ comments

In her deeply layered, eloquent exploration of different kinds of love, Cath Crowley celebrates story, the importance of family, the meaning of friendship and the power of words. The story is set in and around Howling Books, an extraordinary second-hand bookshop in Melbourne where readers can scribble margin notes or leave letters in their favourite books in the Letter Library, the heart of the bookshop.

The central characters Rachel Sweetie and Henry Jones are richly drawn through a dual narrative alongside the many letters that tell their complex stories and those of their friends and families. Henry can’t understand why Rachel ceased to be his best friend after she moved to live on the coast with her grandmother. Rachel, profoundly grieving for her brother Cal, can’t understand why Henry didn’t share ‘the last day’ with her after reading her letter.  Rachel’s move back to the city marks the beginning of their journey back to friendship. Rachel starts to accept her brother’s death and finds herself again so she can move forward into the future. The imminent sale of the bookshop signals a real crisis of identity for Henry’s family and some of their longstanding friends but may actually emancipate them.

The book has many thoughtful design features that help to engage and extend the reader from the brief fragments of text that precede each chapter to the quotes from well-known novels and poems that remind us of the different meanings individuals bring to their reading of texts, to the explorations of complex concepts (the transmigration of memory, the block universe theory). Words in Deep Blue shows us how deeply words do matter.