Monday, December 03, 2007


The Highest Tide, Jim Lynch, Bloomsbury USA, 2005, 246 pp

Though labeled a Young Adult novel, I discovered that its appeal is to adults. The author won recognition and awards in the Pacific Northwest and I loved the story.

Miles is a 13 year old troubled insomniac, living on the shores of a bay on Puget Sound. He reads Rachel Carson and roams the mudflats when he can't sleep, obsessed with tides and the odd sea creatures he finds when the tide is out. His only friend is an extremely weird kid who is obsessed with sex (not that he gets any and not that Miles is not also permanently horny.)

His other acquaintances that summer are Angie, a 16 year old headbanger musician who is also troubled, takes too many drugs and was Miles' babysitter when he was little. He is hopelessly in love with her. Florence is a 90-some-year old former psychic dying of Parkinson's Disease but fighting against social services who want to put her in a home. Judge Stegner, Angie's dad, raises oysters and employs Miles to tend the beds. At the bottom of all the trouble is Miles' parents' crumbling marriage.

In the midst of all this, Miles finds a giant squid, thought to be extinct, and ends up pursued by the media and a bunch of New Age people who have a "school" nearby. A lot to deal with at 13 and Miles makes plenty of foolish moves. It is a coming of age tale set in amazing natural surroundings, peppered with environmental issues and a large dose of satire about the media. But what really makes it good is Miles. He is an endearing, super intelligent kid trying to figure out the world around him and survive his life.

I led a teen reading group at my store and none of them liked the book. They thought the characters were "types" and the teens unlikely. Ha. What do adults know about what teens like. Not much unless you are J K Rowling.

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