Be careful what you believe in.
Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.
Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life.
This is my first ever Moskowitz book, but I’ve liked her for a long time. She’s an author that managed to keep a level head during the dark times of 2011, when authors couldn’t stop harrassing reviewers for bad reviews. There are authors I will not read because of their behavior during that time. Moskowitz was funny and witty and just rational in her response to the uproar, and all of her novels are on my TBR. When I got the chance to review this one through Edelweiss, I jumped at the chance. I think I requested this one almost six months ago! And I loved being in Rudy’s head, the way Moskowitz weaved his thoughts, and also his relationship with his parents and brother. Rudy meets Teeth and Diana very early in the novel, and Moskowitz keeps the plot moving through the entire book.
I liked Rudy a lot. His brother is a decade younger than him and has cystic fibrosis. All their parents do is hover over Dylan, while Rudy tries to be a good son and brother. I get the feeling Rudy is benevolently neglected. His parents love him, that’s obvious, but Dylan is their primary focus, maybe to Rudy’s detriment. I think his parents realize it, even though Rudy doesn’t seem to at first. (They confirm this later in the book.) He’s desperate for human contact with anyone his own age. He gets it, twice over, but definitely not in a healthy way.
This book presents teenagers faithfully, the kind I knew, who smoked cigarettes and made out in the gym, who swear and get angry and have thoughts. But the themes are so dark. When I was about two-thirds through, it became hard to read, because the story of Teeth is so brutal and it doesn’t seem like it’ll get better. This entire book is about fish-two kinds, one with life-restoring, but addictive, qualities, and one repulsive half-human. There is just so much sadness in this one, and some self-discovery on the parts of everyone. When I say “dark,” I mean it in a different way from assassin nuns or torture in medieval Wales. I feel obligated to warn that there is rape in this novel, and while not explicit, it’s clear enough. I don’t think that should deter you, unless that’s a specific trigger of yours, because this book handles things beautifully.
Don’t expect a love story, or even any real romance. Don’t expect a walk in the park, or a pretty mermaid book either. Don’t even expect themes like in Monstrous Beauty, one of the darker mermaid books I read last year. Prepare to have your heart broken by Dylan, by Rudy, by Diana, and by Teeth, over and over again. The angst is delicious, and I will be sure to pick up the next Moskowitz book I see.