C. B. Lee. Seven Tears at High Tide. Duet Books, 2015.
Rating: 4 out of 5 servings of fried fish
I learned about this one through Gay YA’s list of Asian Characters in LGBTQIA+ YA. It’s a gorgeous story about two guys, one selkie and one human, who fall in love one summer. Kevin starts the summer with a broken heart, suddenly and humiliatingly rejected by the guy he’d been with for months, who it turns out was just using Kevin. So he goes to the beach and, remembering a legend his mother once told him, lets seven tears fall into the water before making a wish. Almost immediately, he meets Morgan, a strange boy who declares his love for Kevin, and although Kevin isn’t sure about his own feelings, he does find Morgan compelling.
Things I loved:
This is not only a beautiful love story; it’s also a wonderful selkie story, adding something new to the mythos. In Lee’s world, selkies learn much about human culture from the Sea, which is like a living encyclopedia they can communicate with.
Morgan believes, though, like his mother and most of his herd, that the Sea is alive, and not just a magical network of information, not just a collection of memories and stories from which selkies can pull knowledge. He’s felt the Sea’s life, knows that the Sea, after centuries of emotions and dreams and desires poured into it, is a force to be reckoned with.
It was fun watching Morgan learn more about human culture from Kevin – things like malls and movies and fried foods. And it was neat to see the way selkies blend their human and seal natures – the way they choose multiple mates throughout their lives, the way they gather to sing and tell stories.
You know what’s also amazing? How ultra supportive Kevin’s parents are when he comes out to them as bisexual, and how supportive most of his school is. There are the few jerks, but they’re in the minority. All the other characters we meet treat Kevin and Morgan like any other couple.
Things I didn’t love:
The bigger stuff:
I wasn’t sure I liked the present-tense p.o.v. I get the appeal, the way it slows the world down and makes you feel like you’re really in the moment. But the only place I’ve really felt like that worked was in The Hunger Games, which is full of action that feels even more intense when you experience it in the present tense.
But the thing that really threw off my reading groove was the climax. It was another case, like in Tides and Akata Witch, in which the adults (or one adult, in this case) let the kids (or one kid, in this case) go into a too-dangerous situation all by themselves. How convenient, then, that the villains are incredibly sloppy and too easily overcome. Their involvement in the story was built up nicely throughout the story, but the pay-off was really disappointing. In fact, I think they could’ve been left out of the story altogether, because the real focus, the part that I was most drawn to, was Kevin and Morgan’s romance and the obstacles related to selkie culture that they have to overcome.
And regarding that, the Sea’s rules seem contradictory at times. I give more details about this behind the spoiler tag in my Goodreads review.
The smaller stuff:
Morgan somehow already knows how to read, despite this summer being the first time he’s ever shifted into human form. Even if he learned it from the Sea, that would be a little too far-fetched.
He can also swim amazingly in his human form, again despite the fact that he’s so unused to that form.
Selkies can “talk” to each other, with quotation marks and everything, while in seal form. It would have made more sense for their seal-form communication to be written in italics, like thoughts.
Despite the issues with plot and point of view, the characters and the main focus were compelling enough to make this a Must Own book. I really cared about Kevin and Morgan, both individually and as a couple, and would have loved to read more about their adventures, and more about Morgan’s selkie herd. This is definitely a book I highly recommend, especially to anyone who loves selkie stories.