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The Folger Spotlight

Words, Words, Words: 'The Last True Poets of the Sea' by Julia Drake

Bust of Shakespeare wearing thick rimmed glasses on an aqua background
Bust of Shakespeare wearing thick rimmed glasses on an aqua background

The Folger’s virtual book club, Words, Words, Words continues on Thursday, August 5 with a discussion of Julia Drake’s The Last True Poets of the Sea. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this moving coming-of-age novel about finding oneself among the wreckage.

What is The Last True Poets of the Sea about?

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

The Larkin family isn’t just lucky-they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer. But wrecks seem to run in the family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.

Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece-the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century. She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.


Content Transparency

This book contains mentions of a suicide attempt.

Critical Reception

“. . . Violet emerges as a genuine, sympathetic protagonist struggling to create something new from the wreckage of her life.”—Publisher’s Weekly

“A warm, wise, strange meditation on developing the strength to be vulnerable.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Wry, quick-witted, and filled with deep grief and fathomless joy in equal measure, this is a triumphant debut. Echoes of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and the barest touches of magical realism give shape to the story, which precisely and profoundly maps the ebbs and flows of surviving through trauma.”―Booklist

Why did we pick this book?

The Last True Poets of the Sea borrows plot elements and character inspiration from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Though classified as Young Adult literature (YA), it nonetheless grapples with mature themes of mental health, addiction, and sexual identity in a mature and thoughtful way.

YA fiction is increasingly being recognized for its high-quality and appeal beyond teenage audiences, with outlets such as The Atlantic and The Guardian exploring how YA books have been broadening their readership. We are proud of the variety of perspectives we are able to offer as part of our book club series and excited to share this moving novel with our participants.

About the author: Julia DrakeShort haired woman wearing red lipstick in a black shirt, plaid overshirt, and blue jeans

Julia Drake grew up outside Philadelphia. As a teenager, she played some of Shakespeare’s best heroines in her high school theater program and their stories would stay with her forever. She received her BA in Spanish from Williams College, and her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, where she also taught writing to first-year students. She currently works as a book coach for aspiring writers and teaches creative writing classes for Writopia Lab, a nonprofit that fosters love of writing in young adults. She lives in Philadelphia with her partner and their rescue rabbit, Ned.

Meet our Bookshop Partner: One More Page Books

One More Page BooksThis month, we are excited to partner with One More Page Books, an independent bookstore in Arlington, VA offering books, wines, and chocolates. Their mission is to provide a place for community to come together to share a love of reading through author events, book clubs, and open conversation. Check them out at

Order online or by phone (703.300.9746). Curbside pickup is available at the shop from Monday-Saturday and shipping is available.

You can also order this title as an e-book or download an audiobook version from

Make a plan to join us on Thursday, August 5 to discuss The Last True Poets of the Sea. Visit our website to register and stay tuned for additional Folger resources to enrich the conversation.

We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program: