Book: “The Girl from the Sea” by Molly Knox Ostertag
Publishing Info: Graphix, June 2021
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: From the author of The Witch Boy trilogy comes a graphic novel about family, romance, and first love.
Fifteen-year-old Morgan has a secret: She can’t wait to escape the perfect little island where she lives. She’s desperate to finish high school and escape her sad divorced mom, her volatile little brother, and worst of all, her great group of friends…who don’t understand Morgan at all. Because really, Morgan’s biggest secret is that she has a lot of secrets, including the one about wanting to kiss another girl.
Then one night, Morgan is saved from drowning by a mysterious girl named Keltie. The two become friends and suddenly life on the island doesn’t seem so stifling anymore. But Keltie has some secrets of her own. And as the girls start to fall in love, everything they’re each trying to hide will find its way to the surface…whether Morgan is ready or not.
Review: It has been a long time, like a LONG time, since I’ve watched “Splash”, a romantic comedy about an uptight land dweller (Tom Hanks) and a whimsical mermaid (Daryl Hannah), but it was the first thing that came to mind when I read the description for “The Girl from the Sea” by Molly Knox Ostertag. An isolated or lonely person on land finds love with a gentle and kind sea creature? I mean, that’s a trope that is timeless in and of itself. But to make things a little more unique, Ostertag went a bit more in the direction of “The Secret of Roan Inish”, as instead of the tired mermaid being used, we instead are given a story with a selkie, a mystical creature that can take on seal form as well as human form.
“The Girl from the Sea” is a gentle fantasy story, one that charmed me almost immediately and kept a smile on my face as I read. I felt that Ostertag did a really good job of portraying the turmoil within Morgan, and how her relationship with Keltie, a human disguised selkie, helped her open up and accept herself. Keltie is as simplistic and genuine as you would expect her to be, but I thought that Morgan has a lot of nuance and complexity in which she does have her reasons to not come out to her loved ones, but some of it may very well be a bit of projection on her part. Having her encounter with Keltie and be drawn to her, and perhaps start to fall in love with her, is a nice dynamic, as Keltie is incredibly free in herself, while Morgan is not. I also thought that Ostertag was good about showing how complicated coming out can be for a person, even when her friends and family are, for the most part, loving and supportive. Morgan is not only dealing with her own identity and how to express it, but she is also dealing with a recently split up family dynamic, and how that pain is affecting her and her mother and brother. The undercurrent of that trauma is always present, either through Morgan’s insecurities, or through implied anger and aggression issues her brother has been displaying. Morgan has a lot on her plate, and she compartmentalizes in a fairly realistic way.
And on the flip side, there is Keltie. She is a selkie, and while she is free in some ways, there are constraints that could very easily be applied to her life that Morgan could never understand. I thought it was neat that Ostertag took the mythology of the selkie and incorporated it into this story in the way she did. It brings in themes of identity and transformation, but it also makes other themes like environmentalism and conservation relevant to the story at hand. Keltie isn’t as interesting and Morgan, but then, that kind of makes sense, since she is a fantasy creature and therefore has a lot of fantastical elements. She also balances out Morgan, and makes their romance feel all the more sweet.
I really like the artwork. I’ve read other stories by Ostertag, and while I wasn’t as into those tales as I was this one, I have always appreciated her style and aesthetic, and that translates to this story pretty handily.
“The Girl from the Sea” is a lovely romance about finding the person who accepts you for who you are, realizing they may not be the only ones, and finding out how to accept yourself. It’s gentle and sweet and I highly recommend it for anyone who likes a love story with fantasy flair.
Rating 8: A sweet and emotional love story with themes of transformation and being true to yourself.