Briley’s debut young-adult novel weaves an exciting undersea tale of a boy and a whale.
From its start, this book sets a pace that allows little time for the reader to take a breath. Most of the book consists of dialogue exchanged between the two title characters—Seafoam, a sperm whale; and Kekoa, a mysterious Hawaiian ghost boy. Amidst this rapid-fire dialogue, Briley plunges the reader into the main action of the story in the first chapter, when Seafoam’s relentless curiosity gets him trapped in an extensive underwater cave. Historically, great animosity exists between humans and sperm whales, and Seafoam must make the choice between entrusting his life to Kekoa and being separated from his whale pod forever. The latent distrust between Kekoa and Seafoam sets the stage for conflict, although Briley also ratchets up the tension by including evil spirits, lava rocks, giant centipedes, whirlpools and a host of other sea dangers. Indeed, each chapter presents a series of obstacles that Seafoam and Kekoa must clear, which will likely delight young readers. Unfortunately, the book contains so much conflict that the story’s climax is almost indistinguishable from any other chapter, and the story’s fine theme—that real courage trumps prejudice—deserves its due lead-up and high point. Briley lightens the serious theme with well-placed humor throughout, including Seafoam’s exasperated expressions: “Oh sea rats! What would Dad do?” and “Just one shark-infested moment!” Briley also includes a dozen black-and-white sketches as illustrations, but the amateur images unfortunately detract from the magic and mystery of this fantastical tale.
An imaginative, if uneven, YA story with a praiseworthy message.