Review: Tides by Betsy Cornwell

June 13, 2014 3.5 stars, Book Review, Young Adult 17 ★★★½

Review: Tides by Betsy CornwellTides by Betsy Cornwell
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on June 4, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

When high-school senior Noah Gallagher and his adopted teenage sister, Lo, go to live with their grandmother in her island cottage for the summer, they don’t expect much in the way of adventure. Noah has landed a marine biology internship, and Lo wants to draw and paint, perhaps even to vanquish her struggles with bulimia. But then things take a dramatic turn for them both when Noah mistakenly tries to save a mysterious girl from drowning. This dreamlike, suspenseful story—deftly told from multiple points of view—dives deeply into selkie folklore while examining the fluid nature of love and family.


Rocky ocean beaches, sea spray, romance, lighthouses, and selkies…who could ask for more? Tides by Betsy Cornwell delivers folk tales come to life in spades. Like a true folktale, Tides is a dark warning wrapped up in a magical wrapper.  There are dark themes involved in this story and it might be a bit too dark for those under the age of 16. It might be a story best suited to young people on the cusp of adulthood or adults. There are multiple POV’s and so the reader gets a small feeling for everybody. This makes the whole reading experience feel shorter than it really is (in a good way), and makes you think about the story more than the characters.

Noah and Lo, older brother and younger adopted sister, are headed to the Shoals to spend the summer with their estranged grandmother. The shoals are a group of islands in the northeastern United States. Their grandmother is the caretaker of a lighthouse her family has been caring for, for generations. Noah is excited about starting an internship in Marine Biology with his idol and his sister is looking forward to getting away from their caustic parents and perhaps heal her broken self-image while practicing her passion for art.

Noah has been in love with the ocean since he was little buy, and this love comes through clearly. He is scared and angry with his sister for her self-destructive nature and protective of her fragile self-esteem. He is wrapped up in his work, and excited about meeting a girl who he thought was drowning and quickly realizes that she is truly someone special. Mara, the girl he meets is a selkie. She is working on growing up, living with a tragedy that occurred in her pod (group of selkies) and how they can move forward from there. Lo hates her body and hates herself for treating it so poorly. She is at rock bottom, and looking for healing. There is a cast of other characters: Maebh, The Fisherman, Ronan, Aine, Professor and Gemm are all equal players in this haunting story.

It is hard to get a feel for any one character overall but the story is the main element here not the people. There is no doubt Tides is a tragic story, yet one with small glimmers of hope. It deals with kidnapping, eating disorders, systematic abuse, attempted murder, denied love and most of all: fear. Don’t despair though, there are also moments of hope, love, beauty and family.

*I heard there are rumors of a sequel*

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*gasp* This book was provided by the publisher! No worries though it’s an honest review and all opinions expressed are my own. To view our full Blog Policy, click here.


When not taking care of my two children, husband and mini doxy, rushing here and there on the go, I can always be found reading. Fantasy of course being my favorite genre, but not the only I'll read. Oh yes, and I throw bad books.

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17 Responses to “Review: Tides by Betsy Cornwell”

  1. Kirsty-Marie

    You know, I wanted to read this when it first came out but some reviews put me off it, and I hadn’t really read any to do with selkies, but sounds completely different than I thought it was. Sounds more depressing, for a start. And yeah, some serious issues, but glad it has some happy moments too. I think the one thing that would annoy me though would be the multiple perspectives. I don’t do well with them, two or three’s okay with me, depending on the person and character voices, so I guess it still depends on the book itself. I’ll add it to my TBR list and see. 🙂
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…DNF Review: Dark DaysMy Profile

  2. Bube

    The cover is really awesome 🙂
    And sounds good,great review! 🙂

  3. Chyna @ Lite-rate-Ture

    This seems like a good enough read and the cover is gorgeous too. I’m in the mood for something dark and emotional. Books that give out those strong elements really should be displayed! :)) Great review, I’m def gonna add this to my TBR
    Chyna @ Lite-rate-Ture recently posted…ARC Review: Hexed by Michele KrysMy Profile