Thursday, March 31, 2016

#CBR8 Review #08: Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee

I’m just going to start this off by telling you that if you love beautiful, soft animation and art, you should definitely see the movie The Song of the Sea. It’s adorable and sweet, and has some of the most stunning background artistry I’ve ever seen. But now you may be wondering what that has to do with this book I’m about to review? Well, I was just reminded of the movie because both the film, and C.B. Lee’s Seven Tears at High Tide focus on the myth of selkies! In different regards, of course, but both are also super sweet little stories (almost too sweet at times, in regards to the book, but we’ll get to that).

I am actually currently in the middle of reading another trilogy of books, that are kind of dragging along for me at the current moment. And they are grim and somewhat brutal, so I just needed a break from that. At which point I picked up Seven Tears at High Tide, not realizing what an extreme shift in tone it would be from the other series I’m working on. It’s almost like night and day, to be honest, and this little young adult novel is quick, sweet, and full of young love. It’s not too complicated, and really harkens to that feeling of young innocence and love, to a point where it’s almost a little too cutesy at times, but hey! Sometimes you need that optimism and something light to break up certain a dullness or pretension in other things.

The focus of the novel is on two young boys: Kevin, who is a lonely teenager, trying to get over a recent rejection, and Morgan, a teenage selkie (a shapeshifter who can be both human and seal) who happens to become entangled in Kevin’s world. Kevin makes a wish to the sea for someone to love him for the summer, and the selkies, reading the trueness of his heart send along Morgan to be Kevin’s companion. Morgan is quick to announce his love for Kevin, and the two soon become quick friends and even boyfriends. There is an innocence to Morgan, as he has not really shifted into human form before, and he slowly learns the way of the human world and comes to love it. But, the summer only lasts so long, and the two must face the realization that Kevin’s wish was only for the summer, and Morgan is bound by some other laws of his supernatural world that he must abide by.

All in all, this book is quite simple and has some good parts to it, but also some things that didn’t work out entirely smoothly in my mind. One of the first things I think to mention is Moran’s innocence and adorable bright-eyed nature as he learns about the human world. It’s very cute and I am glad people are so gentle with him, but I can’t help but wonder if a lot of people would actually just think he’s a weird kid? It’s lovely how people just react as though he has been sheltered, but I also found it a bit cloying at times, and I feel like Morgan’s nature might start to annoy people after a while? Maybe that’s just me.

I also found that Kevin’s idea of love, romance, and relationships is very in line with the idea of young love: someone to cuddle and kiss and hang out with, watching movies and looking for rocks together. This is truly sweet and they clearly care about each other, but I do take note that the idea of love presented is quite simple. And perhaps this is in order to reach the younger audience who is the intended demographic of this book? I also very much appreciated that Kevin mentions that he is young and perhaps isn’t sure what love is at his age.

Another thing that I did like about this book is the presentation of Kevin’s sexuality: we learn early that he is bisexual and came out to his family and others the previous year. While this does cause some issues in terms of homophobic remarks and activity from some school mates, there is no point in the book where people refer to Kevin as “confused” or “going through a phase” or having “one foot still in the closet,” which are all common things to hear about bisexual individuals. That is to say, there is still that prevalent idea that this is not a “real” sexuality in some ways. And I could go off on this whole subject for a long time, but that’s another topic altogether. In Seven Tears at High Tide, the only comment anywhere close to that is when Kevin’s sister is telling him how proud she is of him, and that she never realized that bisexuality was a thing until he came out, but she didn’t really question it at all; in fact, she questions herself and her own identity more than anything. And I think that having this kind of simple representation is good in stories for young people, showing that hey, it is a thing and while of course Kevin’s identity is a part of his story, it is not his whole story. My tiny bi heart approves. 

Alright, now I’m going to warn about spoilers for this last little part I’m going to speak about:
Something that did bother me a little with this book was how everything played out at the en. There is mythology thrown in there regarding the selkies, and it essentially sets itself up like The Little Mermaid in that Morgan faces a choice near the end (yet, unlike The Little Mermaid, Kevin and Morgan have actually spent a good chunk of time getting to know each other and coming to have feelings for one another). Yet, this choice that is present is almost made to be null by a deus ex machina of sorts coming to play where Morgan is not forced to make a difficult decision. Things work out, and I do love myself a happy ending, but not if it seems like it was almost forced or contrived to happen, you know? It’s another thing that adds to the almost too-sweet and slightly juvenile feeling of this book. But as I think I’ve already said, this book is indeed aimed towards a young adult demographic.

All in all, Seven Tears at High Tide is a quick and simple little story about young love. It is very cute and I can see a lot of young people loving it. It was just a little cloying for my tastes at time, to the point where it became a tad too much. So I am not sure that I would read it again, but it was great as a little break from the other books I am currently trying to work through at this time.   

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