A SWIRL OF OCEAN by Melissa Sarno


Age Range: 8 - 12
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In this story of a change-averse preteen, the restless interplay between moon and sea becomes a framework for exploring the uneasy intertidal zone between childhood and adult maturity.

Ten years ago her adoptive mother, Lindy, found Summer, now 12, alone on the beach. Their tight bond is tested when Lindy invites her boyfriend to move into their oceanfront home, causing Summer to passively resist the new normal. A reckless, solo swim triggers Summer’s vivid dream about a strange girl: Tink, another out-of-sorts adolescent. Observing grown-up thrills and heartaches from the child side of the divide, Tink feels abandoned by her older sister and disgusted at how her friends have coupled up. When a second dream follows a kayak spill, Summer recognizes that seawater prompts them and actively seeks them. Like Tink, she feels pushed out. Heightening Summer’s dislocation is the desire to know her own story—who left her on the beach? Why? The discovery that her detailed dreams reflect actual places and events prompts her to seek more. Awkwardly straddling fantasy and realism, plot twists don’t always persuade. How adoptees relate to their origins merits more thoughtful treatment. However, Summer and Tink are compelling, the unsettling surges of adolescence tugging at each enhanced by the evocative ocean setting and imagery. Characters default to white.

How preteen girls negotiate this supremely trying life passage is explored in some of the year’s best middle-grade releases; add this to the list. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5247-2012-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2019


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