Author- Wendy S. Swore
Title- Strong like the sea
Publisher- Shadow Mountain
Publication Date- 25th May 2021
Genre- Mid-Grade Contemporary
Comment- I was given a free ecopy from Shadow Mountain Publishing and Netgalley. All views are my own and in NO way influenced by the thought of giant Viper eels coming at my face. Thanks for that.
Even though twelve-year-old Alexis was born in Hawaii, she won’t surf or swim with her friends—not since the ocean and its hidden creatures swept her out to sea. Instead, she grabs her best detective hat and decodes her mom’s latest challenge
Alex’s mom works in counterintelligence and leaves codes, ciphers, and puzzles behind for Alex to solve, always with a “treasure” at the end. It’s a brilliant game between them, and Alex loves figuring out her mom’s puzzles—especially the tricky ones—but when an emergency at sea puts her mom in possible danger, solving the next one suddenly feels far more urgent.
Friends help as Alex races to decipher each clue before time runs out, but when the trail leads to grumpy old Uncle, his enormous dog Sarge, and a sea turtle unlike any other, the challenge changes into something bigger than any before. With storms on the horizon and lives on the line, Alex must face her fears to solve Mom’s challenge and save those she loves. With her ohana to help, she must be strong like the sea.
I read and reviewed Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore in 2019. It was such an emotional journey that I was eager to read her next book and I’m glad I did.
Strong Like the sea is set with the gorgeous backdrop of Hawaii. I say backdrop but each page was so heavily influenced by the surroundings that the Island itself felt like a character. From colloquialisms and cultural practices, food, flora and fauna, you genuinely got such a feel for the place that even though I’ve never been to Hawaii, I felt like I had.
Thankfully the author doesn’t dumb down her culture. We are encouraged to go with the flow but there is a glossary for those who may get confused.
I looked up rainbow eucalyptus and the sensitive plant on google and listened to pronunciation guides of how to say words that Alex said so that I could hear it in her voice and I felt enriched by the process. I have never had spam and Hawaiian rice and now I feel almost desperate to try some.
The coconut wireless and how everyone knew everyone’s business was emphasized in such a positive way. It wasn’t intrusive but caring and I really loved that small-town vibe.
And Alex herself was amazing. Not just because she was deciphering codes I had never even heard of but because of how she was handling everything.
I often felt sympathy for the children in this book because it seemed as if they didn’t get much time to simply be children. They ended up taking on a lot of their parents problems or expectations and were tackling things that, frankly, shouldn’t have been their problem.
Alex’s friend Jack, for instance, suddenly goes from riding his bike and snacking to working every job he can because of his sudden change in family situation. Her best friend is permanently exhausted by all of the extracurricular activities she does and Alex, herself, often seems at breaking point.
With an over-achieving mother in a highly prestigious but dangerous job who expects her to solve extremely elaborate codes, a father whose almost fanatical dependence on a schedule smacks of OCD or at least some sort of controlling disorder, Alex’s balance between being herself, achieving her own as well as her mother’s expectations and walking on egg-shells would have had me cowering in my room for days.
I was also a little concerned that her parents hadn’t picked up on her terror of the sea and addressed it, especially since she lives on an Island.
I think Wendy Swore has such a good grasp on the pressures that young teens are under and puts it across in such a way that, even though you know it shouldn’t be, it just feels natural. Stressful, but natural.
Although the best friend finally gets a chance to reduce her work-load, Alex herself doesn’t address her family issues. They simply go from a boil to a simmer, which, I suppose, is realistic. Not all family problems are solved or can be solved easily.
There was a message of conservation threaded throughout but it was never overtly shoved in your face. The ending was sort of anti-climactic and fell a bit flat but the characters and the love between them all was heart-warming enough to make up for it.
I really enjoyed reading it. I loved solving the puzzles along with Alex and adored her Uncle, even if he was grumpy.
Another great book by Wendy Swore and I’ll definitely recommend it to my younger readers.
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