I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this book. Maybe it was the cover that caught my attention since I find it really pretty and am strangely drawn to books with mysterious seaside settings. Maybe it was the simple yet intriguing title. Maybe it was the way the author describes the book as “so magic, so gay, so, so fish.” Now that I’ve read it, I don’t feel like it was very magic or very gay, but it was very fish, so that part was accurate. Whatever it was though, and however it came to my attention, I’m glad I read it because I really liked it.
This was a very different portrayal of merfolk than what you usually see. This was a gritty, bleak, sad portrayal of a lonely merboy rather than the glamorous, fantastical one you usually find. I’m finding I really like gritty portrayals of supernatural creatures. I felt terrible for Teeth though. I won’t spoil all the backstory you find out as you go, but he was stuck living in the ocean at constant risk of drowning since he needed air to breathe, he was the only of his kind, and he was so incredibly lonely.
Then there was Rudy, the main character. His voice was fairly unique. A little bit different. A little bit vulgar. I can’t decide if it felt more contrived or more authentic than a lot of YA books about teenage boys. But it stood out, and I liked that. I also liked that Rudy himself was not perfect. He’d done some pretty crappy things. He could be selfish and reckless and careless. But he loved his brother, and he felt bad for Teeth, and he wanted to do what was right and help them both and just got caught up in the moment sometimes.
This is not what I would call a romance though. The feelings between Rudy and Teeth were more hinted at in their actions, in what they were willing to do for each other, how much time they spent together, rather than something that was explicitly stated. That’s not a bad thing, just something readers might like to know in order to have the right expectations going in.
Tying all of this together was the plot, and I liked how nothing was black-or-white. Like I mentioned above, Rudy got kind of stuck between his brother and Teeth, and helping one meant hurting the other, and he did the best he felt he could, given the circumstances. There was even a point when he thought about how he wasn’t sure what he could’ve or would’ve done differently, and I could understand that. His life on the island was messy and gray, just like real life often is.
Last but not least, I’d say this book is more for mature YA readers as there were a couple heavy and disturbing topics. Trigger/content warnings: *POSSIBLE SPOILER*: Rape (off-screen). Violence (some on-screen, some off). Child abandonment. *END SPOILER*
Overall, this was an unglamorous and somewhat dark take on merfolk, the story and writing were just different and unconventional enough to stand out, and I’m really glad I read it.
Anyone who likes mature YA, stories where things are not so black-and-white, mermen, and gritty portrayals of supernatural creatures.