Title: Selkie Girl
Author: Laurie Brooks
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 14, 2008)
Setting: Shapinsay (Orkney Islands), Scotland
Rating: 4 out of 5
Selkie Girl is a story set in Shapinsay Island which is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. This story is inspired by Selkie legends where a Selkie is a creature that is half human and half Seal.
Elin Jean has always felt like an outcast in her village. She has fingers which are connected by thin webs that make her the object of ridicule in the village. She spends most of her time in isolation seeking solace from the Ocean. She lives with her parents and her grandfather. But no one has ever been open to her about why she is so different from the others.
She would come to know in time, yes, but it will change her life, turn it upside down and will lead her on a journey into the unknown. She will have to find a purpose and a place to belong.
Selkie Girl is a magical book. The setting is beautiful and mythical. Laurie Brooks writing creates an imagery so vivid that you can feel and imagine the vastness of the ocean, the horror of the seals fate, the beauty of the land and Elin Jean’s struggle to belong either on land or in the sea. The author has taken the Selkie legend and turned it into something else.
I could give you one example of the beautiful writing here:
Here is a roaring power to be reckoned with, this channel where the North Sea meets the mighty Atlantic. At odds with each other, the two bodies collide, churning into waves that can rise to forty feet. As change-able as the weather that reigns over it, the channel rests, mild as a newborn lamb, until the wind shifts it into raging tides that can catch the most experienced sailor unawares. And in a storm, the waves stretch as tall as mountains, white peaks battling for domain over the waterway. Even the thought of these storms humbles the others. What the sea gives up, it must take away, they say. And the truth of those words is born of bitter experience. Each year families lose fishermen to the sea, gobbles up in the wild storms, bodies lost forever beneath the tides.
And although the writing is beautiful, it can be a bit too wordy at times.
Grandpa blows rings of smoke, one inside the next. He sends the ovals toward the ceiling, and they follow willingly until they collide with the lingering haze from the cooking fire above and their perfect circles distort and disappear.
The first half was a bit slow for me but I raced through the second half not wanting to finish the book but also wanting to know what happens. Again a Young Adult book that can easily be a crossover.
Having said the above, I believe I have reasons for loving this book more than I expect others to. I LOVE the ocean and that’s probably why I could understand the endless pages describing Elin Jean’s pull to the ocean, her reasons being different than mine though. I love books set in lush, green surroundings, if it’s an island it’s a plus, if the island is in Scotland or Ireland, even better. And finally, I love books based on legends, myths or fairy tales. All I want to say is that these are also some of the factors that have lead me to like this book. That’s all.
P.S: I kind of hate the cover.