Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review: Tides

I got this book in a curious way, an author I follow on tumblr reblogged another author saying her second book was coming out soon and she would like to have more reviews of the first book up on Amazon so she'd be happy to send a PDF of the book to anyone who wanted to review it on there. Naturally I was interested so I'll be cross-posting part of this review over there, hope it does some good!

Tides by Betsy Cornwell

Noah and Lo are spending a summer with their grandmother in her lighthouse in New England, for Noah it's so he can attend his summer internship and for Lo their parents hope that the time away from home will relieve the stress on her and let her fight her bulimia better. What none of them expected was that Noah and Lo would find out about a centuries old secret of the area that their grandmother already knows quite a bit about, selkies.

Despite the fact that the story has a relatively small cast it's a diverse one, Lo is Noah's adopted sibling (I believe from China) and there is a long term LGTBQ+ relationship in the story as well plus all of the characters have very distinct and different personalities and world views. Noah is by far the most boring character, while his unhappiness that his internship isn't as exciting or glamorous as hoped it reasonable and typical I just didn't find it interesting, I was grabbed much more by Lo's scenes where she grapples with her eating disorder and tries to reason with herself over it (her character is far more than that but those were the scenes that stood out the most to me). Mara, the third main character, was also much more interesting that Noah in some ways but in other ways their personalities seemed to bring out each other's most boring aspects, around her Noah became cautious and bland and Mara seemed to be even more impulsive and rash, since the story doesn't make note of this or push them to change in these regards I wonder if this was accidental or not.

While the character drama was nice the plot was a bit messy, the beginning of the story is too slow, the middle just right, and the ending much too fast. Despite foreshadowing both the conflict and the villain the villain felt completely flat and irrational and the main part of the conflict too easily resolved. The characters even act out of character for it, Mara lashes out and acts even dumber than she had earlier in the book and Gemm, the kid's grandmother, is reduced to being able to do nothing even though she's both a native to the island and has known about selkies and their story's for years, it felt as if she was intentionally sidelined so that Noah, and to a lesser extent Lo, could be the ones to save the day. I'm not precisely sure what I would have done differently but I was certainly surprised how the climax played out and not in the good way.

Despite that I did enjoy the book, the character bits were nice and, despite the fact that mermaids have been a semi-popular trend in YA for the past few years, I don't come across many stories about selkies in current day YA fiction (and it reminded me to check for when Song of the Sea is coming out, hurray!). The book ends on a open-ended note, everything is wrapped up enough that it could be a stand-alone, "life goes on" type of ending but if a sequel was to ever be announced that would feel rather natural as well. I'm interested in Cornwell's next book but upon a closer look it doesn't appear to be due out until next summer so with my luck getting books I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it.