Paranormal Young Adult
Walker Books for Young Readers
Received via Teen Book Scene for review
Tempest Maguire has a decision to make. With her seventeenth birthday rapidly approaching, she knows her mermaid heritage is going to make itself known and she will need to choose between a life on land and a life at sea. For her, the decision is simple. She's human and she wants no part of the world her mother abandoned her and her family for years ago.
The pull of the ocean is incredibly strong however, and with the arrival of Kona, a young man who seems to know what she's going through, her easy decision becomes increasingly complicated. When Kona is threatened, Tempest doesn't even consider not coming to his aid by staying on land, instead diving into the water and temporarily embracing her mermaid half.
While in Kona's world, Tempest learns more about her mother and the life she returned to those years before, causing her anger over the abandonment to slightly abate as she finds herself in the middle of the same battle her mother left to fight. With each day, life as a mermaid feels more like home, but Tempest struggles more than ever with her decision, not wanting to be the second woman in their family to leave those she loves behind.
Tempest Rising is a deceptively dark read, those of us going into it with memories of cute Disney characters sure to be both surprised and pleased by the grim quality of Tempest's tale. There is no singing or fun crustacean sidekicks, instead we are faced with rather profound and intense emotional issues surrounding Tempest's mother's choice of duty over family and the lasting effects that decision has on Tempest's own impending choice between human and mermaid. Ms. Deebs beautifully illustrates both sides of Tempest's nature–effectively cleaving our hearts in two as we find ourselves as split in our thinking as young Tempest. We are grounded on land with her, enveloped in the comfort of home and family, but we are also simultaneously intrigued as Tempest is by the fanciful and unknown world beneath the waves beckoning us to explore.
While the epic decision Tempest is faced with is heart-wrenching in its depiction, Tempest herself is a bit difficult to connect with. We absolutely feel her pain and sense of betrayal at her mom's absence during a time when she most needs her guidance, but she has the frustrating tendency to expect things of others she's not willing to give herself. Her human boyfriend Mark desperately tries to get her to confide in him when she's thrown off-kilter by the emergence of some of her mermaid traits, but she continually shoves his attention away and denies him the trust he so desires. However, when Kona enters the picture and has information and answers she wants, she gets angry at him for keeping her in the dark as she did Mark, at times recognizing the parallel between Kona's actions with her and hers with Mark but somehow expecting different results when she's on the receiving end of the silence.
Additionally, the final battle between Kona, Tempest, and the sea witch leaves just a little to be desired. We are told of a prophecy in which a girl matching Tempest's description defeats one of the sea witch's greatest monsters and presumably destroys her as well, but there are so many questions we want answered only to find few of them are by the time we finish, almost as though we are merely being asked to believe what we're told as opposed to being made to believe with a little more history and detail. Tempest has extraordinary power, but we have no idea where it came from or why she is the first to possess the abilities that have made her a target for the sea witch, leaving us a bit detached from the action as our complete involvement is blocked by a lack of information.
Overall, Tempest Rising is an entertaining read, its subject matter a nice diversion from the vampires, werewolves, and fae, and its world one we certainly wouldn't mind returning to visit again. Tempest is a bit bothersome at times with her attitude and behavior, but as an older reader of young adult fiction, it's easy to forget that all my reactions and decisions at her age were not always rational and completely mature. Ms. Deebs is an author I will be watching in the future though and will read again if given the chance.