This YA contemporary fantasy romance is sweet, funny, and extremely relatable!
Book: Out of the Blue by Jason June
Publication date: 31st May 2022
Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Harper 360. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: skims close to cheating in places; mildly toxic relationship
Crest is not excited to be on their Journey: the monthlong sojourn on land all teen merfolk must undergo. The rules are simple: Help a human within one moon cycle and return to Pacifica to become an Elder–or fail and remain stuck on land forever. Crest is eager to get their Journey over and done with: after all, humans are disgusting. They’ve pollluted the planet so much that there’s a floating island of trash that’s literally the size of a country.
In Los Angeles with a human body and a new name, Crest meets Sean, a human lifeguard whose boyfriend has recently dumped him. Crest agrees to help Sean make his ex jealous and win him back. But as the two spend more time together and Crest’s pespective on humans begins to change, they’ll soon be torn between two worlds. And fake dating just might lead to real feelings…
This sophomore novel from Jason June dives into the many definitions of the world home and shows how love can help us find the truest versions of ourselves.
Out of the Blue is a delightful teen rom com with just enough mermaid shenanigans to keep a fantasy lover satisfied! It’s got a real summer film feel, like if Splash was about messy, modern, unapologetically queer teens – it would make an excellent Netflix movie, for sure, which I think would delight its filmmaker lead, Sean. Film is actually a big theme here, with Sean often thinking about his life in a meta way, working out plot development and framing in advance of his actions, which I found lent the book a fresh feel.
The perspective switches back and forth between Sean and nonbinary merperson Crest, which makes for some really wonderful contrasts in how they each experience events – I quickly fell in love with them both, and was really rooting for them to realise they were in love with each other! The side characters are fun too, especially Sean’s best friend Kavya. The whole cast is nicely diverse in terms of race, sexuality and gender, and I also thought it was very inclusive in other ways. Sean is plus-sized, and the book is in general very body-positive; there’s realistic representation of depression; and it’s a queer-accepting, sex-positive book as a whole.
As well as the fun fake dating romance, I really enjoyed Crest’s (literal) fish-out-of-water plot – it’s hugely entertaining to watch them get to grips with the weird things about human teen culture! Despite being a red-headed merperson, Crest really couldn’t be any more different from Ariel; they hate humans and absolutely do not want to be on land, which leads to so much fun snark about the differences between human and mer ways of life. The story takes place entirely in the human world, so it might not feel fully fantasy to some, but the world of the mer is so interesting, and really suffuses the way Crest thinks and acts. All your favourite mermaid tropes are here in some form or other!
This next part might be minorly spoilery, but it’s only to do with the need for a true ‘romance’ to have a Happy Ever After or Happy For Now rather than the actual events in the ending of the book. Skim down to the final paragraph if you don’t want to know more! I found the romance really satisfying, with a good teen HFN (which I prefer in YA, because how many people get an HEA at 17?) but I will say that in discussing the book with friends, one of them had a very different take on it! I thought the ending was nicely open, with a final scene that reminded me very much of a romcom movie’s dramatic moment (again, on theme for filmmaker Sean), but my friend found it too open, to the point they saw it as a break up. I think your take on the ending is going to be very personal, but it’s worth mentioning that it’s not as cut-and-dry as a category romance.
I just had a really fun, light-hearted, summery time with this one! It’s not necessarily a great work of literature, but it’s got the cheesy teen rom-com thing down, while also offering a ton of diversity and that fun fantasy element. Four out of five cats!
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