Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Tides

TidesAuthor: Betsy Cornwell
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Clarion Books

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.

"Selkies need the land as we need the deep ocean," said Gemm. "They need it for its danger and its mystery. They come to the beaches and they sing. They sing to the ocean and the sky."

She sat on a rock and shrugged her body down into the water. It felt light and sweet against her skin, like kisses, or what she thought kisses must feel like. There wasn't much opportunity for kissing when she couldn't talk to people outside her family.

Friends. Mara hated how foreign the idea was to her. Still, she didn't know how to respond to this boy, this Noah, who sat on the rocks beside her, still sopping wet, clearly intended for dry land only.

And yes, Lo had been eating. Sometimes only celery, sometimes whole batches of cookies, but at least she ate. Noah was happy to see medium- and large-size tags on her clothes when it was his turn to do the laundry, and he pretended he didn't notice when she started cutting the tags off. He made up excuses for her when he heard her get sick in the bathroom. But now, seeing how angry she was, how much she hated her perfectly normal body, he couldn't pretend.
Noah and Lo Gallagher are spending the summer with their grandmother on a remote island where she is a lighthouse keeper. Noah has obtained a summer internship where he is working with Professor Foster and hoping to study marine life and be as close to the ocean as possible. Lo, Noah's sister, just needs a break from life and could do with a change of scenery. Lo struggles with bulimia and her family hopes that being away for the summer will help her heal. Noah and Lo quickly adjust to the island and soon come to the love the stories their grandmother shares with them about the selkies, seals that have the ability to take on a human form. Much to their dismay, the stories that they yearn for their grandmother to share with them are about to come true!

This story is told from many alternating view points, but none of the story ever becomes confusing and Cornwell gives readers a nice transition between character voices. Some of the characters that share their stories are Noah and Lo, the two teenagers that spend their summer on the island, their grandmother, Dolores, Maebh, the selkie elder, Mara, the selkie that Noah meets one day by the sea, and her brother Ronan. There are more characters and details that make up this story, but these are just a few of my favorites. I loved switching characters, and not every author can do it as successfully as Betsy Cornwell. Mara and Noah were of course my favorite characters, and I feel like I was feeling a lot of the same things that Noah was feeling as the story unfolded.

The mythology and fantasy in this story was amazing! I love stories about the sea and all its many wonders, real or make-believe. I have not read many other books, in fact I am not sure that I have read another book, about selkies. I loved the background and the mystery that comes with their nature. Mara was a fabulous character, and really allowed me to believe in her life as a selkie and a human. Cornwell sold Mara's character and I could really feel the pull for Mara's life at sea and on land. It wasn't over exaggerated like some mermaid stories, but was instead written in a very realistic sense.

This was a beautiful, tragic story with many surprising moments and added details. It would be the perfect beach or pool read!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin in exchange for my honest review***

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