Tides by Betsy Cornwell
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Magic Realism
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: June 4th 2013
Synopsis: 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.
Upon finishing Tides, my breath was taken away. I am still having trouble coming up with sentences that will actually do this novel justice. Cornwell beautifully captures the salt water waves of the ocean, the magical, fantasy beings called selkies, the ties that bind a family, and love. Tides is a book that feels as real as it feels dreamy.
One of the many noteable qualities of the contents of Tides is the perfect melding of everyday life and fantasy. Cornwell takes time with the problems of the characters that many people have in their mundane lives: wanting to accomplish a dream and the frustration that comes with not quite reaching it, bulimia, conflict inside a family, and supporting your loved ones but not knowing how to. The author also puts a lot of focus on family, especially how a group of people can still be a family even if not blood related. Another major focus is loving someone completely regardless of gender. These themes are all handled with care and sensitivity that is very awe-inspiring.
The story of Tides does deal with the main fear of the selkies, having their skin stolen, that many stories of the same kind deal with, but Tides delivers it in such of a refreshing way that I have no complaints about it. Couple that with the wonderful contemporary element and I downright loved the story. The mystery is suspenseful, albeit a bit predictable since the reader can probably guess who the culprit is right off the bat, but still highly absorbing and quite emotional at times because of the terrible effects the culprit had on the selkies.
Pacing is far from fast in the beginning. There are many characters to introduce and relationships to establish, as this is a character driven story, before all the suspense and mystery kicks in. But when the mystery and suspense kick in, the pacing changes greatly, though not abruptly. I didn’t even notice the change until I thought back on it.
Cornwell writes her characters with amazing depth, each one having their own set of problems to face and conquer and a distinct personality. Which is impressive considering that Tides has a lot of characters. While characters like Noah, Lo, Mara, Maebh, and Gemm take the stage, the more minor characters are also written remarkable well. I could relate to all of them in some way and could emotionally connect with them.
I was absolutely touched by all the relationships in this book. The author definitely knows how to write family, friendship, and romance and doesn’t hold back in this novel. I adored the loving, romantic relationship between Maebh and Gemm, the sibling relationship Noah and Lo shared, the romance between Mara and Noah, and the relationship the selkies of the pod had together. Saying that this aspect of the story is top-notch doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Cornwell’s prose is exceptional with its soft, peaceful feel and power. The words flow nicely and beautifully emphasized the wonder of the ocean and shore. I could hear the waves of the ocean hitting the rocks on the shore. I could feel my feet in the water. The atmosphere was perpetual and comforting, which is something I consider brilliant.
Using multiple point of views in a story is very tricky considering that it can cause characters to be under-developed, and the writer also has the risk of not being able to make the different point of views distinct from each other. Fortunately, Cornwell doesn’t fall into that trap. She pits to use many, many point of views with skill. Transitions are smooth, choices are distinct, and no character is under-developed.
When I read a story I really love, I find it hard to form words with my fingers or mouth. But with Tides I can speak and type just fine– I just can’t stop pouring and rambling my out my feelings about it. Tides is an insightful, gorgeous novel that is full of heart. Saying that I recommend this book would be a massive understatement.
I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley