To preface, I received A Thousand Salt Kisses by Josie Demuth as a Netgalley ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I was torn between a two star or three star rating for this because the story did have good bones and an intriguing plot, but the characterization and writing were just not up to snuff. Mermen, island conspiracies and saving the ocean? Usually right up my alley. However, this was so poorly executed, I can’t find a way to love it.
First of all, when will we ever be done with first person narrative in YA fantasy? The form is clunky, it does not to the intended effect of connecting you to the character, and the plot is so much slower when you have to see a person’s thoughts at all times. It is also a lazy way for a writer to tell instead of show through their writing. This is not the only novel that is guilty of all of the above (looking at you, Veronica Roth and Suzanne Collins) but Salt Kisses seems especially guilty of it.
Secondly, the main character Crystal is such a sappy, whiny teenager that honestly, what merman would fall in love with? This was written entirely in trope- “our love is boundless, oh she’s just a normal girl but there’s something *special* about her that makes him love her.” No, there is nothing special. She is jumpy, clingy, and in short, seventeen and immature. This is purely the writer trying to make her teenage fantasies come true. What young girl wouldn’t want a merman or other fantastical, extremely hot guy fall in love with them? That’s all well and good, but damn does it fall flat. Also, what is with 400 year old dudes (or close enough) falling for teenage girls? Or even her best friend dating a 25-year old?! None of that is okay. I am currently 25, and if I had a daughter, she would so NOT be dating a guy this age while still in high school.
Case in point: When Crystal thinks her and Lyr (the merman) are broken up, she thinks:
“…it’s hard to bare (TYPO!) to think past goodbye, when there would no longer be Crystal and Lyr, no longer the long hot days of mystical adventures and salt kisses.
I would just be normal old Crystal White, the school girl again.”
Not, “Oh I am losing the love of my life,” just, “Oh I’ll be a normal girl with no hot merman sex in my life.”
Another thing that bothered me was the “killing oceans” narrative. I don’t like bad offshore companies either- I don’t think anyone does. We all want the oceans to be saved. But to turn a normal company that is just doing bad business and turn them into **SPOILER** child kidnappers and arsonists killers is pushing the envelope. This narrative could have lived on in just a regularly bad company, not the “bane of the world” type. It turned a pretty good talking point into a caricature.
All in all, I guess it is good for a seventeen-year-old girl, but for me, not so much. I also don’t think it makes a good impression on girls who are 17- it romanticizes older men and makes getting drunk on beaches and sex look commonplace (perhaps in the UK it is, but in the US, that’s still frowned upon.) For girls who can tell the difference between just fun fiction that shouldn’t be emulated versus girls who would take this book as a gospel way that they should act at 17, it may be fine. But girls like that don’t want to read this kind of vapid farce anyway, so I don’t really know the target audience.
Two waves- I guess it is a light read for the beach, given it takes place on an island with mer-people?