By Betsy Cornwell
Available now from Clarion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
I have a secret fondness for selkies. They aren't deadly, like some mythological creatures, and they're most well known for being kidnapped and stuck with horrible men, which is not a great fate. But there's something about the folklore that resonates with me.
The two young people at the center of TIDES are Noah and Mara. Noah is working as an intern at the Marine Science Research his last summer before college and living with his grandmother (the lighthouse keeper) and younger sister (who needed to get away from their parents). He can't wait to move on and go to college in the fall. Mara is a selkie whose sister Aine was kidnapped years ago. Now, the Elder of her group is afraid to let the youngest selkies grow and Mara and her brother are stuck perpetually babysitting. She wants to be a leader and is chafing under the rules that keep her close and powerless. Then they meet.
TIDES is a quiet, lovely novel that builds to an action-packed finish. It's morality is fairly simple, but explored in interesting ways. It shows the ways that people can hurt each other, accidentally and on purpose, as well as how they can forge new connections and become stronger. I liked TIDES had a plot that came together neatly, even though the focus was on character.
Almost every character in TIDES has their own motivations and goals. Even the grandmother Gemm has a lovely (lesbian) romance that's given a fair amount of detail. There are also differences between the humans and selkies, culturally as well as physically. Perhaps my favorite moment that illustrated the difference was when Mara first meets Lo and muses about how she does and doesn't look like Noah and decides that they do look enough alike to be siblings. Then a human immediately mistakes them for not-siblings since Lo is adopted and Chinese. I did feel that Lo's eating disorder was overcome somewhat quickly, but I liked that it never completely disappeared from the story despite not being the focus. It's not a disease that shows up much outside of issue books.
I think TIDES will appeal to fans of classic fantasy novels like A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT by Madeleine L'Engle. It has that quiet, intimate appeal. It's also a good choice for YA fans looking for a slightly older protagonist. Noah definitely doesn't have high school worries. I thoroughly enjoyed TIDES, and think I would've even if I weren't fond of selkies.