“One summer to be happy and in love.”
In a word: Go read the thing! It’s a beautifully written story about two boys falling in love for the first time, and the meaning of choice. It’s got romance, fantastical elements, a fun cast of characters, so much cuteness, some angst, and two loveable dorks you just can’t help but root for.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Couple: I was initially worried that I wasn’t going to like this book because I usually have a hard time getting invested in couples in YA novels. I WAS SO WRONG THOUGH! Kevin Luong, an openly bisexual and somewhat lonely highschooler, and Morgan, a half-human-half-selkie teenager, are both adorable. And also dorks. Kevin is a nerd, and a bit of a loner, he’s also sweet and funny and has a good heart (which Morgan immediately sees with his selkie abilities). Morgan is a complete sweetheart and, not naïve exactly, but he’s a selkie who has never been on land as a human before, and it shows. They’re both good boys, like neither of them have a mean bone between them. They become pretty close in a short amount of time, and it’s clear in the beginning that their time together is finite, and part of what makes the climax so tense and the ending so rewarding is that you’ve come to care so much for these boys over the course of the story and you can feel that they love each other so much that, godammit, they deserve to have their own happily ever after.
The Romance: So, this story is kind of a combination of insta-love and slow burn romance. Which sounded to me like a bit of an impending disaster, but it really works here. It’s Morgan that falls first, this is where the insta-love comes in. As a selkie, Morgan has the ability to look into a person’s heart to see who they really are. When he first sees Kevin he looks into his heart and falls immediately in love with him. His first basic formal introduction to Kevin is to tell him that he loves him, which weirds Kevin out because, at this point, Morgan is a complete stranger to Kevin. Kevin is completely human, and romance and love are different for humans because they don’t have the ability to look into people’s hearts. It’s Kevin that brings the slow-burn aspect into it. The boys spend a lot of time together doing activities that only serve to bring them closer together. It’s well written and doesn’t seem at all forced. The point of view switches between the boys every chapter, so you get to read about each boy’s feelings about the other and how being together makes each of them feel. So we get to see in real time how Kevin comes to fall in love with Morgan and all his quirks. And we also get to see Morgan learn to connect with his human side and look past Kevin’s heart and fall in love with Kevin himself.
The Other Boy: This asshole. His name is Miles, and he’s mostly introduced into the story via flashbacks, and as a comparison to Morgan, which is the only reason I’m bringing him up here. It’s implied in the narrative that Miles is Kevin’s first ‘boyfriend,’ and I put that in quotes because Miles was absolutely not boyfriend material. We don’t know a lot about him, other than that he led Kevin on for months before finally dropping him to hang out with another group of boys who just so happened to be Kevin’s bullies from school (also he’s most likely very deep in the closet, which could make him a bit sympathetic, but still so excuse for what he did). Talk about insult to injury. Kevin spends a good amount of his and Morgan’s early days comparing Morgan to Miles and finding Miles very wanting, in hindsight. Morgan is everything that Miles wasn’t, which is really, I think, what pushes Kevin to give him a chance in the first place.
The Side Characters: Seven Tears doesn’t have a huge cast, but there are some notable others that show up in Kevin and Morgan’s story. Each boy has a family, of course. And contrary to most YA stereotypes, they both have awesome parents. Granted, their parents don’t show up all that often, but it’s more in the way of teenagers needing less supervision and not at all about absentee parents and deadbeats. Kevin lives with his father, his step-mother (who is not at all evil, or any other stereotype), and his older sister Ann. They mostly provide comic relief by teasing Kevin, in the way that families do, and just by being fairly entertaining people. We don’t see a lot of Morgan’s family, it’s not described in full but it’s implied that it’s fairly large. He has his mother, Linneth, a step-father, and several older and younger half-siblings, along with a few cousins that are also mentioned. Linneth is the leader of the selkie herd and both encourages and discourages Morgan in his relationship with Kevin (we do eventually get her reasoning on that). We meet one of Morgan’s older sisters, who is a typical older sister, and some of his very young brothers, who are legit adorable. There’s Miles, of course. There’s also Morgan’s father, whose identity is a mystery at first, although I was able to pick out who it was on my first read-through, but the interest there is less about who the man is and more about his story. The Sea is also a character, serving as a sort of god or teacher figure for the selkies.
The Bad Guys: This story has some. Researchers: a very zealous one with two assistants. They don’t actually play an extremely large part in the story overall, but I’m mentioning them because the foreshadowing for them was done very well and it was a fun experience to read it again and put together all the clues I had glossed over the first time I read.
The Sex: This is a YA novel, so there is no explicit sex scenes. Although Kevin and Morgan do have sex, it isn’t described in detail, but the writing makes it obvious what happened. A great thing that this novel does is that it acknowledges that teenagers do have sex, and that’s alright (providing that they are doing it safely and properly, of course). There’s an especially funny scene about condoms, something that Morgan has never seen and that Kevin has to explain to him, so that gets information along to a teenage reader without being preachy or dry. Another thing is that both boys are virgins to start off, and the narrative doesn’t make that out to be embarrassing, or a bad thing. It also doesn’t make it a bad thing when the boys do get together.
The Writing: I have nothing bad to say about the writing. There’s the odd typo here and there, but for the most part it’s all pretty damn solid. It’s an easy read and everything flows together well. There’s quite a bit of world building involved, but any exposition comes up naturally and doesn’t all happen in info dumps. Settings and metaphors are described but they don’t take away from the narrative and they aren’t boring.
[Seven Tears At High Tide was published October 15, 2015 by Duet, a young adult imprint of Interlude Press, available both as a print book and an ebook]