Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Highest Tide - Jim Lynch

Summary: Miles O'Malley is a speed-reading, insomniac, Rachel Carson-obsessed thirteen-year-old in love with the girl next door. When he stumbles across a rare sea creature on the tidal flats one moonlit night, he becomes a national phenomenon, haled by the press and even a local cult as a kind of prophet. Through the summer, while the sea continues to offer him discoveries from its mysterious depths, Miles navigates the equally mysterious process of growing up. As the close of the summer approaches, and with it the highest tide of the year, this luminous tale of obsession and natural wonder surges toward an unforgettable ending. (Excerpt from book cover - picture from here.)

My review: I have loved the ocean since my first real experience with it, exploring the tidal pools of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon with my not-yet-fiance Curt. I have feared it since we went body-boarding and I realized that pretty much anything could be swimming under my feet. As a result, I am somewhat captivated by anything oceanic and what first drew me to this book was it's cover. To start off, this book is beautiful, literally. I don't know about it's other covers, but the one I have (pictured above) is what initially drew me to the book. I found it at Goodwill and it caught my eye instantly. The summary (and the fact that it was a Book Sense/Indiebound Pick) sealed the deal and into the shopping cart it went.

While I adored Miles' almost worshipful descriptions of the ocean and thrilled at his rare finds, there was altogether too much "guy talk" in this book for my taste. I kept getting thrown bodily into the mind of a 13-year old boy--a place, I assure you, no 29-year-old woman EVER wants to be. Miles and his friends exposed me to quite a bit more sexual conversation, male fantasies, and, ahem, creative and adult language than I felt was necessary for the storyline.

If you can get past those sections (and that, I believe, is a personal choice) then this book is chock full of interesting discoveries and fascinating descriptions of marine life in Puget sound. Having never really seen the ocean (that I can remember) before the age of 20, I felt inexplicably drawn to this mysterious tidal world and the animals hiding in its' depths. (Teensy Spoiler Here) The ending felt a little bit anticlimactic for me, as I was expecting another mind-blowing discovery and didn't really get it. (Spoiler Over)

All in all, I enjoyed the main part of the story, but wished that it hadn't been so full of what I'm certain was a thoroughly realistic interpretation of the mental wanderings of the average 13-year-old male. Alas, I can't have everything. This was, however, a Book Sense (now Indiebound) Best Pick, which means that independent booksellers everywhere thought it was worth a read and you might too.

My rating: 3 Stars. Contained adult language and frequent sexual comments.

To sum it up: A 50/50 split -- Part fascinating marine exploration/part hormonal teenage ramblings.

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