Grade 8 Up–Gwen, 17, has returned to a small beach community seven years after the scandal that forced her family to flee. Now she's spending the summer working at her grandmother's inn and hoping to put the past behind her. The very first morning she's there, however, she meets Jesse, a boy who claims he already knows her, and knows what happened all those years ago. Overcome by her attraction to him, Gwen spends more and more time with him and realizes that he has secrets he isn't telling her. Her grandmother's tales of selkies foreshadow what is to come, and readers will probably guess the outcome long before Gwen does. If they can get past the sentimental title that belies the real story, the romance and mystery will keep them reading until the very end. Expect this to be popular where retold myths and fairy tales are in demand.–Ginny Collier, Dekalb County Public Library, Chamblee, GA
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Gr. 7-10. Unlike Farley's middle-grade Phantom Stallion series, her first YA novel is not equestrian in theme. Her focus, however, is still on a transcendent bond between a girl and an animal--in this case, a sea lion selkie. When Gwen and her parents abruptly move away from their coastal family seat, her clairvoyant grandmother predicts that forces "no mortal can imagine and no female can resist" will draw her back. Sure enough, when Gwen, 17, returns for a summer job, she falls for exotic wanderer Jesse and finds herself immersed in a modern, California version of a Scottish selkie myth. It takes time for her to acknowledge Jesse's sea lion nature (perhaps too long, considering his taste for raw bait); eventually, though, Gwen accepts his alien qualities along with the tragic knowledge that their time together is fleeting. Farley's numerous supporting characters and subplots lend more complication than meaningful depth, but Gwen's convincing, contemporary voice, by turns resolutely practical and head-over-heels for a guy who "kisses like an ocean god," will draw many teens into one of folklore's lesser-known beauty-and-the-beast romances. Jennifer Mattson
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