Monday, February 24, 2014

Tangled Tides (Karen Amanda Hooper)

Tangled Tides
(The Sea Monster Memoirs series, Book 1)
Karen Amanda Hooper
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, YA Fantasy
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: On Yara's eighteenth birthday, the strange boy Treygan turns her into a mermaid... and her life only gets more complicated from there, when she learns that her boyfriend, Rownan, is a selkie, half-seal rivals to merfolk. Yara wants nothing more than to return to her human life, caring for her beloved Uncle Lloyd, but the sea monsters refuse to let her go. Long ago, the gorgons who created them sealed the gateway between their native world and Earth, dooming selkies and merfolk alike to a long, slow death in exile. The girl Yara may be the key to their salvation... assuming she isn't destroyed.

REVIEW: With a neat premise and a fast start, I was sure I'd enjoy this one, even if I wasn't too keen on the characters. Yara is stubborn and a bit whiny, while the stoic Treygan struggles to cope with her and Rownan tries to pull her over to the selkie side of the seafolk rivalry. Hooper gives each race distinctive powers and liabilities... some of which, especially on the merfolk side, start to feel a bit cheesy, more reminiscent of a children's cartoon than a young adult novel with occasionally dark overtones. While selkies drink blood and half-avian sirens suck out memories, the merfolk swim around in bright rainbow colors and throw parties. (There are also some serious inconsistencies. Yara's human memories were largely destroyed by the transformation, she is told, yet she recognizes the Superman logo and refers to the Fifth Amendment. Likewise, Treygan claims ignorance of above-water culture, yet at one point refers to someone as acting like a robot.) The story relies heavily on Yara refusing to listen or pay attention, and on people hiding things from her - and from the reader - only to be conveniently interrupted when they finally decide to talk. It grows tiresome and annoying, especially when characters keep mentioning these omissions, pointing at the Big Secret while madly dancing to avoid it. Throw in a willfully oblivious heroine and several gallons of Forbidden Love spiced heavily with Teen Angst, and the whole mixture grows harder and harder to swallow, especially when it becomes clear that the whole world, above and below the waves (in two worlds... three, if you count the afterlife), revolves around Yara in some form or another. Some shimmers of true beauty and pain become lost in the overall tide of melodrama, capped off by an ending that's just too neat. Ultimately, while it had moments of promise, Tangled Tides turned into a disappointing slog.

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