CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 41. . . .June 22, 2016
n.p., Skyscape (Distributed in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son), 2016.
422 pp., trade pbk., $13.99.
Grades 7-10 / Ages 13-16.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
“Closing one eye, I focus on the boy’s face. His jaw is set. Determined. He must be insane and – even at this distance – easily the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.
A weird ache settles in my chest as I stare through the binoculars, watching the surfer catch wave after wave, riding each one to its curling end, before turning and paddling back out to catch the next. He surfs with uncanny intuition, like he’s one of the waves.
Finally, he rides the board into impossibly shallow water, and, perfectly poised, casually steps off. In one quick crouching movement he scoops the surfboard under his arm. Then he straightens and looks up. He looks up, at me.
Goosebumps race along my arms and I drop the binoculars – they smack me in the stomach like a fist, the edge of the plastic cord slicing at the skin on the back of my neck. Grabbing them up again, I bring them to my eyes –
He’s still staring at me, head slightly tilted to one side now, as if he’s listening to something.
Maybe he’s not a boy.
Lilah’s voice in my head: her seventeen-going-on-twenty-five voice from before the accident. I shiver. Lilah. She’d always been right about everything.
Oh God, Ari. You’re so easy. What else could he be? Trust me, once you know one...
And then I hear something else, something like . . . music. Flutes, or pipes, or chanting voices – I can’t tell. The distant music tugs at me somehow...
Still, I keep the binoculars trained on the boy. Maybe he isn’t looking at me – he can’t possibly see me from there. Maybe he’s staring at the sky, or a bird, anything besides me. Feeling like a complete idiot, I slowly raise my arm – and wave anyway.
Continuing to look up, he gives a brief nod.
I freeze at the railing.
The wind begins to howl, and again, I hear the far-off music. Together the two create a primitive, atonal composition, music that the boy seems to move to as he pivots with aqueous grace –
And glides out of my line of vision, disappearing behind the dunes.
Arion is 17 and has just left her home in California to move with her dad to his hometown of Rock Hook Harbor, Maine. She and her dad will get established there before her mother and sister Lilah come to join them. A boating accident has seriously injured Lilah, and it will be a long time before she is able to make the journey. In the meantime, Arion continues with her songwriting and does her best to fit into the new community, quickly making friends with Mary and Logan and other teens in the small town. She is also attracted to Bo, a surfer from a rich local family which is linked to unexplained deaths and other mysteries. Arion knows she should ignore him, but there is something about Bo which is inexplicably alluring, and Arion cannot seem to decide if he might be the love of her life – or her ultimate destruction.
Cross gives her readers romance, paranormal events and mystery all wrapped up in one novel. Arion, the main character, is the centre of several plot threads. She is in-between her parents who communicate less and less, and she also must deal with a sister who appears to be so damaged after her accident that she cannot communicate at all. Arion has understandably become very frightened of water and the ocean yet now lives in a lighthouse and attends a school where beach and ocean studies are part of the normal curriculum. And Arion finds herself in the midst of a love triangle. Logan obviously is attracted to her from the start and would like a relationship while Arion is also involved with Bo, the local surfer and bad boy whose personal and family reputation suggest that he should be avoided at all costs. Throughout the novel, Arion must make choices and decisions, and readers watch as she becomes more self-reliant and self-confident.
Cross introduces sirens as the paranormal feature of her novel. In Greek mythology, sirens were dangerous winged bird-women who lured unsuspecting sailors to their doom with their attractive singing. The theme of music is important throughout the novel, and Bo and his family are, in fact, modern-day sirens who are quite capable of creating havoc both in their seaside home and farther afield.
The plot of Shining Sea becomes quite convoluted at times. Logan has a twin brother who is not dead, as everyone believes, but who has been turned into an evil siren intent on revenge. Lilah, Arion’s sister, previously visited Rock Hook Harbour, and her boating accident there appears linked to Bo and his family. When Lilah eventually returns to the town, it appears that changing her into a siren may be the only way to save her, albeit in a paranormal and un-human way. Many of the relationships in the story are built on lies and fabrications, with characters rarely being honest and truthful with one another. This adds to the intrigue but also makes the story confusing and difficult to follow. Figuring out just what is happening can be a chore, and there are times when the plot, therefore, seems to slow down more than it should.
The ending of Shining Sea leaves many questions and is, consequently, less than satisfying. Perhaps Cross’ intention is a sequel which will complete the characters and help readers fill in some of the blanks from this book. Undoubtedly, readers who enjoy “Twilight” books and other paranormal romances will hope that Mimi Cross continues the story of Arion and the many sirens who inhabit her world.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired high school teacher-librarian and classroom teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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