Crest is not excited to be on their Journey: the monthlong sojourn on land all teen merfolk must undergo.
I was granted complimentary eARC access to Out of the Blue by Jason June after participating in a #FrenzyPresents preview event with the HarperCollins Canada Influencer team. Thank you for the NetGalley download! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
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About the Book
Out of the Blue
by Jason June
Publishing 31 May 2022
Genre: YA Romance
Page Count: 377
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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.
My Rating: 4 Stars
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I’m by and large not a romance reader. I’m demisexual and just plain not interested in what we traditionally think of as a romance book. Out of the Blue is not a traditional romance book. This is two queer teens from completely different worlds bulldozing through just about every fake relationship trope there is with the added twist that one’s actually a merperson with a deadline to return to the sea forever or never again. There’s far more emphasis on the emotional romance side of things than on the more behind-closed-doors aspects of more adult, traditional romances.
There’s also a ton of LGBTQIA+ representation and symbolism, and I’m so here for it. First of all, quite obviously, we’ve got merpeople. Merpeople have always been symbolically quite important to the LGBTQIA+ community and to trans and non-binary individuals in particular, so I love it that one of the two main characters and lovers is a non-binary merperson who has to discover what their true form really is. I also love it that we’ve got at least 4 AMAB characters who are gay or some flavour of bisexual plus a girl who’s the adopted daughter of lesbians. This cast makes it look like straights just might be the minority in their part of town, and absolutely nobody in the book’s version of the world has a problem with that.
On that note, minor quibbles time. Let’s start with that last point. Okay sure, we’re operating in an alternate reality version of Los Angeles where merpeople wash up on shore monthly to do the “how do you do, fellow kids?” routine, but not been the drunk idiots at the dock party have a single homophobic thing to mutter under their breath? This version of LA is too perfect in this sense. Second point, the Crest/Ross POV chapters disoriented me at first. In the first few chapters I was listening to the book via Kindle’s screen reader, so audiobook but without the benefit of an intelligent voice actor who can make distinct voices, and I did find myself wondering once or twice if we were also getting a third POV from a second merperson. Also, I do love the fact the Mer are non-binary by nature and the forced different perspective of seeing the world through the eyes of someone who is utterly confused by gendered language, but the gendered language barrier was so heavy at first that I wasn’t sure which “theys” were the subject’s actual pronouns and which were Crest’s language barrier. I think I have everybody’s pronouns sorted now, at the end of the book, but I’m still doubting myself a little.
I do feel like I need to address pacing. I see some other reviewers talking about “emotional whiplash” and that feels quite accurate. I know we’re playing hard into rom-com tropes because Sean is obsessed with rom-coms and both main characters end up recreating bits and pieces of famous rom-coms to impress the targets of their affection, but when you take every possible way the “fake-real turn” trope can work out and mash them all into the same plot, you’re going to end up with a real tornado of a third act. Every time I thought I knew which way this one was going to work out we’d get another wrench thrown in. Given that we’re dealing with 16 year olds, who love and move on fast, and given that they’re modelling their lives after many rom-coms, I really don’t see how to avoid the problems the last third of this book run into. I think it had to run the gauntlet it ran. I don’t think slowing it down and adding more pages would have improved anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel absolutely tossed around by the last third of this book. And the ending? No spoilers here, but out of all the possible resolutions I saw forming as the plot twisted and turned that one didn’t quite cross my mind. I’ll just say it felt like a Beauty and the Beast moment, except nobody earned their way into or out of the magical stipulation in the final hour. Those who’ve read the book, chime in, did you get the same feeling?
Overall this book was very sweet, very engaging, and felt like nothing I’d ever read before despite constantly calling back to material we’re all quite familiar with. While it’s YA, it’s mature YA, and I do think a broader audience will be able to enjoy this. Just keep in mind, fellow older readers, that this book does embrace how connected modern teens are with mobile technology and social media, so you’ll either need a basic understanding of hashtags and how things go viral or be willing to just accept that those are things that happen and enjoy the story despite not understanding those things. They’re minor, but they come up constantly.
If you love LGBTQIA+ content, young love, and merpeople, read this book!