June, Jason. Out of the Blue. HarperTeen, 2022. ISBN 978-0063015203. 384 pp. $17.99
Merperson Crest is on a coming-of-age journey on land to help a human and earn his return to the sea — if they choose to return after experiencing the wonders of twenty-first century Los Angeles. When Crest, who goes by Ross on land, runs into recently (unceremoniously) dumped Sean, it seems their mission is to help Sean win back his ex, and Crest/Ross becomes a willing participant. Of course, there are rules: no human can find out Crest/Ross’s true nature, and if they return to the sea before the month is up, they will have to remain on land forever. Rules, of course, were made to be broken, amirite?
An accidental reveal at the Hollywood Walk of Fame results in a surprising plot twist that I didn’t see coming–well done on author Jason June, it’s difficult to pull a fast one on someone who has been reading YA romance for 35 years. The writing was a little disappointing overall. Although well-plotted using Sean’s film-making interests and Crest’s time constraints to lay out an agenda, there was a LOT of drama: characters yelling and screaming for emphasis or to TELL us emotion instead of conveying and revealing through action. There was consent in the sexual scenes, but also snapping towels and ass-smacking and a violent outburst from another student.
I’m lumping this into magical realism rather than fantasy, but the worldbuilding for under the water and in the Blue was nicely done, simple and complete. Sometimes the merperson lingo or oceanic references were a little too much, and sometimes, Crest’s/Ross’s dissing of human consumption and environmental concerns struck a didactic note (though I am by no means in disagreement with Crest/Ross’s assessments.
I especially appreciated the diversity of the cast; straight people are the anomaly and like L.A., the book is peopled with real people in all colors, shapes and sizes, and it’s mostly NBFD. I wanted to care more about Crest/Ross and Sean than I did, but the ending definitely tugged at my heartstrings. Like most fake-dating tropes, the characters of course come to care for one another (and are wildly attracted!). When they act on their instincts, it’s developmentally appropriate and safe.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #OutOfTheBlue via #NetGalley