In celebration of Earth Day (April 22) I am reviewing a Young Adults book with strong environmental themes. Cry of the Sea is about June, a young girl who’s parents are pushing her to follow their paths in environmental issues. When she and her father are first on the scene of a major oil spill they encounter mermaids washed up, covered in oil and grime. Suddenly she finds she has a vested interest in the environment as she dedicates herself to trying to help these creatures.
This kick starts the main plot of the book. Donna Driver does a fantastic job exploring the ideas behind such a discovery – who would ‘own’ the creatures? Do they have rights like us? How would media, science and big corporations all handle this discovery?
June is on the verge of becoming an adult, and as such she must deal with the common issues of impending maturity – love, friendships, tertiary education and career choices, family issues (especially overbearing parents.) Somehow, during all this, she must also keep the mermaids secret while trying to understand them. Where have they come from? Why has there never been any proof until now?
Driver’s voice is clear and fluent, and she writers her characters well. Often times the melodrama of teenage social life or family dynamics can seem forced or overbearing, and though there is some of that with June’s parents, it is not overbearing or un-interestingly stereotypical. Also, June’s school life had very few instances to make me cringe – this is usually the point where a Young Adult novel begins to pander too much to the TV and film tropes and not enough to reality.
Driver shines with her ability to see life from a realistic teenage point of view, crafting a believable teenage wasteland for June. The only let down for me was June’s Native American heritage. It had almost no relevance to the story, and only so her father could step out of character and become a Wise Indian stereotype.
The mermaids weren’t Disney princesses, they were sentient creatures of the ocean. Their plight, successfully, evoked the same empathy as that of whales or dolphins. They were the dominant driving force of the book, though they were downplayed in small background scenes, which was the correct course for Driver to take. Too much time with the mermaids would have been farcical, but by rooting the story in real situations and real dramas, the fantasy element played a more realistic role – successfully fitting into the fictional ecosystem that is Cry of the Sea.
Donna Driver has been a published author for 21 years and is a member of SCBWI Midsouth. She has several critically acclaimed nonfiction books as Donna Getzinger. Her three Young Adult titles Cry of the Sea, Whisper of the Woods, and Passing Notes are all published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books. When she isn’t writing, she is teaching or singing in a community theater musical. She grew up in Southern California, but now lives near Nashville with her family. Learn more about her at www.dgdriver.com.
This review was done to help recognize World Earth Day and Arbor Day. To learn more about these important days, and find out how to do your part to help the planet, please read more at wikipedia.com
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