Title: Blue Out
Author: Miranda Storm
Publisher: Sigint Publications
Publication Date: July 4th 2022
Genre: YA Fantasy Thriller
Comments: I received a review copy from the author. I leave an honest review which is in no way influenced by the threat of being forced to swim 90 lengths. I do not have a Gold swimming badge. I would die.
“Welcome to Ararat, the verdant, hostile home of the Elites.”
The year is 242 Post Inundationem. Global flooding has submerged most of the Earth’s former landmass in water. The Masses struggle to survive on the low-lying plains, while the Elites party on the heights.
When sixteen-year old Naya DeLora is recruited into Eden Academy, the prestigious school for the Elites, to become their new swim champion, she seems to have struck gold. But life on Ararat Heights is not what it seems. And Naya has a secret. One that could save her life—or cost her everything.
Most books these days are marketed by comping (comparing) them to others in order to hook you in and give you a taste of what you are in for.
You may have seen books hyped as “The New Twilight” or “Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park”. While I’m sure this is useful when pitching a book to a publisher in ten seconds, it also pre-sets expectations which can be detrimental when the only similarity to Harry Potter is the book is set in a boarding school.
I bring this up now because I read a marketing page where Blue Out was comped as Harry Potter meets Hunger Games which is so off the mark it’s ridiculous.
This book has nothing to do with Wizards, magic, boarding schools or fighting the one true evil. Naya isn’t the chosen one nor is she in a televised fight to the death.
If it has to be comped to anything I’d say it’s anything it’s H2O:Mako mermaids meets James Bond by way of YA Trilogy tropes.
Oh. It has ALL of the tropes. So many that if I started to take a shot with each trope I would have died of alcohol poisoning.
So what is a trope? A trope is a predictable circumstance or event that is used again and again in literature to the point that it becomes standard and then cliched. One such trope is “Hidden pregnancy”, a staple in most 1980s romance books.
So let’s play Trope this with Blue Out:
WARNING- THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS. If you don’t want to be spoiled read my GoodReads review here
Teen Lit Wasteland meets US-centric
Is the future a dystopian bureaucracy set in a world where only America seems to exist?
So in the future, some accident melts the ice caps which causes the oceans to rise covering most of the planet in water. The rich (Elite) go to the tops of mountains where they build their houses and schools and flood gates and the poor (FRS) have to live on the flooded plains with the ever-present risk of tsunamis and storms causing drowning. Rich get rich and the poor suffer.
This takes place in Cape Harmony which is an island on, what is left of the West Coast of the US. Very little mention is made of the rest of the world and what they are doing regarding the flood. The area they stay in is called Ararat which, for those who don’t know, is the mountain where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Flood. Kudos for the historical props.
Strong Rebellious Female Character
Is our protagonist a girl who has a strong moral code and gets herself into dangerous situations on purpose?
Naya lives on the plains with her mother, her father being absent (insert absent Parent trope tag). He left her a necklace (insert Checkov’s gun trope stage) but her mother never speaks of him. (insert mysterious past trope tag)
We first meet Naya as she is creeping into a flooded zone to get a knick-knack her mother left behind.
She is strong. She is fierce. She is independent. She is drowning.
Meet Cute. Insta-love. Hottest guy ever.
Their eyes meet for the first time as he bumps into her/ takes her order/ saves her life. He’s so handsome she can’t keep her eyes off him and they have a CONNECTION.
Naya almost drowns but is saved by a young man with blonde hair and blue eyes and a chiselled jaw that defies gravity. She is instantly obsessed with him and can’t stop thinking about those eyes, those lips, that boy she met for literal minutes.
But life has to go on.
Unqualified protagonist succeeds over overly qualified antagonist.
Does the protagonist exhibit strange behaviour starting around adolescence that could be the formation of hitherto unknown powers?
While Naya is hanging with her friends on the beach, the Elites come down from their mountain top and challenge them to a swim race in order to keep control of the beach. Naya swims against Duke and, what do you know, she can suddenly swim circles around him. Despite the fact that he is older, stronger and has been training for the military version of SeaQuest.
Contest to a better life and Duty above all.
Is there a competition which will result in our protagonist being able to achieve a better life? Will they have to take the chance, even if they want to stay with their family, because of the greater good?
Due to the rise in seawater, the skills that are prized now are the ability to swim and hold your breath underwater for long periods of time. Those who can do this become Alpha8s. They protect everyone from the people from non-existent other lands that might come calling. There are also rumours that they look for genetic variants that have adapted to the new world through evolutionary processes. But nobody believes in that obviously (insert monsters are myths until they aren’t trope tag).
So periodically the Flood Relief Shelter (FDS) school will have a swimming competition which is watched by a representative of the Elite Academy. Anyone who shows promise is taken to a better life in the Elite section.
Naya breaks the record for the fastest swim time and is taken to the Elite Academy to be used to help the Greater Good. She doesn’t want to go as her friends are all in the FDS but, if she doesn’t, her mother will be taken to the labour camps.
Privilege makes you evil. Rich Bitch. Cheerleaders are Evil. New Kid in School.
Are rich people mean? Is the antagonist a spoilt (blonde) bitch who makes our protagonist’s life hell? Is she the new kid in school who doesn’t fit in and is mocked by all?
The Elites are cold, arrogant, snobbish and determined to let her know her place. Jessica is ner new foster sister and is rich, dumb, entitled and popular and doesn’t see why Naya isn’t obsessed with clothes, shopping and being popular (insert the ever favourite NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS trope)
The guy from the beach (Duke) is Jessica’s boyfriend and creepily welcoming to the new girl. (insert In her pants trope).
The Elite throw her a lavish party which only serves to show her how out of her depth she is (water pun) and the politicians and scientists drop ominous hints about duty, power and the good life.
Untouchable Bad Boy. Do I recognise you? Defector from Decadance. Nobody tells me nuffin.
Is there one man that all the girls want but he is unattainable? Is he the one from earlier? Will he fall for our protagonist? Is he the only one who hates the oppression of the poor? does he disdain the riches and advocate for the masses? Won’t someone tell her what is going on?
Turns out the one who saved her life is called Gillan and he is the school’s best swimmer and the youngest ever Alpha8 lieutenant. He told no one about saving her life as she could have been punished. But, despite being so shocked she is there, he can’t be in the same room as her (insert dude, what did I do? trope).
She is forced to join the swim team of the Barracuda’s who are the ones headed by our rich bitch, Jessica. Jessica’s father, Jim, is now Naya’s foster father and he takes Naya under his wing (insert late father figure trope). This very much annoys our Queen Bee and she takes it out on Naya.
But Naya isn’t there for this, she just wants to save her mother and get through the day. She is press-ganged into joining the Alpha8 training program where she is forced to learn how to fight.
Her swim coach seems to be hiding her abilities, her crush is ignoring her and whispering that they can’t talk, people are dropping weird hints about power outages and Naya keeps hearing people talk about her. But no one will tell her straight out what is going on. Looks like she’ll have to discover it all for herself. (insert solving crime before breakfast, Nancy Drew trope)
Instant acceptance of superpower. Instant mastery over sudden powers.
Can she use powers she’s suddenly discovered without any training whatsoever and does she accept her freak-status alarmingly quickly?
After swimming in the sea Naya suddenly discovers she has a tail. She is a mermaid. Oh no! all of those rumours about variants could be about her and more of her kind who have (VERY QUICKLY) evolved to take advantage of the fact that most of the earth is now water. (ignore the fact that actual evolution takes place over millions of years and never fully changes one organism into another- in fact, let’s call that a plot-hole trope.)
But within moments Naya is swimming with the fishes…literally, not like she’s dead. She is quick and lithe and will absolutely nail that swimming competition which is inexplicably essential to win. Which they do.
Evil Genius. Dastardly Plan. Double-cross. Child revolution.
Does bad guy one have a weird plan resulting in the deaths of everyone and leaving him in charge? Does his partner betray him at the crucial moment? Are teenagers the only ones who can stop him?
But what is this? Her sweet foster father, Jim, knew about her powers all along and was just using her because he needs her genes for his experiment. (take a deep breath) He wants to give people a serum injection to change them into variants and kill off the Elite ruling class and most of the rest of the world so he can be the only one with the power to keep the lights on and have his own slave class of warped humans to do his bidding because it’s more important to be rich and powerful and godlike mwah ha ha ha (evil laugh).
Duke’s father has been dosing his own son with the serum because he wants to oust his partner and be the real ruler. Double-cross, betrayal!
Now it’s up to Naya and Gillan to stop them and save all of Cape Harmony.
It was you all along. We are the future. Find my Past.
Was he the one she was always going to be with? Is their connection written in the stars or in their genes? Are they going to path the way for future generations?
Gillan? Yes. Turns out he, too, is a variant, except he has shark bits. Naya and Gillan are the new evolution of the human species and will be the future of all mankind. Which is a lot of pressure on anyone let alone a pair of soggy teenagers.
Is this going to go on? Possibly for three books?
Apparently, book two is called Riptide.
And I am here for it!
That was so much fun to do.
However, I want to say now that just because something has tropes for days doesn’t make it a bad book. I really enjoyed it. Was it predictable and cliched at times? Yes. But there was comfort in that familiarity and it was done well.
For example, the second half of Blue Out feels like it’s an action-adventure James Bond tale. Great descriptions of action and fight scenes that actually make sense. I was gripped and really focused on what Naya was learning and the mysteries of her parentage.
The dialogue flows smoothly (mostly) and we get Naya’s fish out of water (not apologising for the pun) feeling of being in a new school when she doesn’t even know how to turn her e-book on.
There was one instance of a proper teen strop where she yells at Gillan “you saved me, now you hate me,” which was far too dramatic even for a girl who grows fins. (Side question, could a Mermaid swim whilst on her period or is it too dangerous? Gives a whole new meaning to Shark week.)
Yes she has to join the militia but she isn’t automatically the best fighter, she has to run herself ragged in order to keep up which is slightly more realistic than the instant Bear Grylls that some YA protagonists become.
All in all, Blue Out is a solid addition to the YA dystopian trilogy genre with some interesting twists and turns. I will definitely be reading book two. but I might not make it a trope drinking game. I only have one liver.