A half-human, half-selkie boy searches for a way to belong.
For his first 11 years, Aran considered himself wholly a selkie pup, living with his mother and a small clan of other adult selkies. Most selkies—seals who can transform into human shape—are born wearing their pelts, but pale-skinned Aran wasn’t; his mother assures him it’s only a matter of time. Being stuck “in longlimbs” means that Aran can’t swim as fast or far as his clan members, which prevents his mother and him from migrating or attending the selkie Moon Day rites with the others. He drinks salt water rather than fresh, but he can’t hold his breath underwater for nearly as long as the rest. When he learns that his father was actually a human man, he fears he’ll never get his pelt. Finally his clan heads north to seek advice and possibly a pelt from the ancient wise ones, leaving Aran behind. Aran forges a cautious life as a partial human, making friends with a brown-skinned, biracial girl named Nellie and her artist grandfather, a white man. Still, the sea calls him every day, and when violence threatens, Aran flees. Told from Aran’s first-person point of view, the story goes smoothly to that point despite some minor flaws in the worldbuilding, only to wreck against the craggy reef of its ending, which rejects his essential duality.
A dishonest ending to an otherwise well-conceived story. (Fantasy. 8-12)