Author: Betsy Cornwell
Genre: YA contemporary, UF, PNR, GLBT, AWESOME
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (HMH – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: When high-school senior Noah Gallagher and his adopted teenage sister, Lo, go to live with their grandmother in her island cottage for the summer, they don’t expect much in the way of adventure. Noah has landed a marine biology internship, and Lo wants to draw and paint, perhaps even to vanquish her struggles with bulimia. But then things take a dramatic turn for them both when Noah mistakenly tries to save a mysterious girl from drowning. This dreamlike, suspenseful story—deftly told from multiple points of view—dives deeply into selkie folklore while examining the fluid nature of love and family.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – a gorgeous new version of the selkie folklore to explore!
Review: Selkies. They’re quickly becoming the new mermaids of the YA paranormal world, and I’m happy to see that happen. Two books alone this month (“Ashes on the Waves” being the second, along with this one) are being pubbed with selkies as major characters, and I couldn’t be happier. “Tides” is a gorgeous story filled with not only magical realism, but also tough stuff issues that aren’t couched in their usual terrible filling of bullying, suicide, or other such destructive behaviors, but treated with love and kindness, giving the reader hope if they’re in the same situation. If you’re looking for some absolutely wonderful new magical realism from a debut author this summer, “Tides” is definitely your book.
I guess my only issue with this book was the underdevelopment with some of the more minor bits of the main cast (Ronan and the younglings being the ones that come to mind the most) since especially the latter of the above two become really important to the plot near the climax of the book (though I won’t spoil as to how). I wanted to know more about the Pod, and why they became so fractured aside from Aine’s disappearance – that seemed too simple an explanation for me, and I just wanted a little more on the entire fracturing of the pod, as well as how much strength it takes to go back to Ireland within a selkie body. Stuff like that. Little more development on the characters and some of the finer points of the selkie body (in terms of what we don’t know from the legends/folklore) would have been nice, but I’m happy with what I got.
Otherwise this is an amazing little book. It’s not very big or exciting or loud with its prose, but more of a laid back, summer-y beach book one can sink into when you need to get away. The characters and world are pretty thorough and sturdily built, and the sensory imagery is lovely and starkly written. I could feel everything that was written, and for an author to really nail it when it comes to sensory stuff (especially when most of their book takes place in water) really makes me happy.
There’s also the GLBT angle – that came totally out of nowhere, but I melted a little when it did. Especially considering the age group of the two women it pertains to. I was really touched that the author thought to include that, and also included the message that the GENDER of the person you’re with doesn’t really matter – just the person themselves. It’s quietly sewn throughout the novel, but by the end, it becomes very loud and clear, and that made me very happy. No one talks much about the older GLBT set or what they’ve had to face (especially ones that have lived pre-Stonewall – kids, if you don’t know what that is, search for it on wikipedia), so this was really refreshing in that sense. The only other book this year that talks about earlier LGBT action and rights is “Two Boys Kissing”, which I’ll have a review for soon. But I’m glad that “Tides” managed to balance two romances and two types of romance and make it all mesh and play nicely together in such a good way.
The world was absolutely absorbing and by the time I got to the final page, I definitely didn’t want to leave. “Tides” is a wonderful standalone, full of danger and adventure and learning to live in harmony not just with other people in terms of who they are, but learning to co-exist with all creatures everywhere, big and small. Cornwell is definitely an author to watch, and I can’t wait until her next book. She does magical realism right.
“Tides” is out June 4, 2013 from HMH in North America, so be sure to check it out then! It’s made my best of 2013 list, and rightfully so – it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s also the perfect beach book, so be sure to give it a chance!