Water Memory feels like a title in search of a good story. We have a girl whose age isn’t stated, in a sea town that isn’t identified, with folklore that isn’t culture-oriented, and a lot of clues/mystery that never seem to go anywhere. The authors stated they wanted to keep this without references – but in doing so this maritime story floats aimlessly and without a firm anchor (no pun intended). I was expecting something a bit more original or distinct in some way; there were no surprises and the twist at the end was pretty obvious, even for young readers.
Story: Young Marion’s mother, newly divorced, returns to her ancestral home after being away from it since she was four years old. While she quickly finds a job in the new town, Marion is left to explore the seaside. When she comes across mysterious carved stones, all of which point to the odd lighthouse on the island, she becomes curious – especially about the old recluse who lives in the lighthouse. But the sea can be dangerous and Marion is about to find out that there is much more to it than she realized.
While I recognize this is a book that is ideally targeted at a younger audience, several things really bothered me about the grounding of the story. For example, we have a young girl, clearly in elementary school, left to wander around a dangerous crumbly cliff and a treacherous sea by herself after only just arriving. This is the day after she moves in – she’s even allowed to go swimming in the very cold ocean by herself while her mother unpacks in the house (which is far from the beach). It makes no logical sense.
Marion, of course, gets in many scrapes that could easily have killed her – from getting trapped in a cave with a rising tide to falling off the cliff. Let’s not also forget that she breaks and enters a private person’s home and then tries to once again kill herself by sneaking out into the high tide again. It’s hard to root for a character that does such stupid things – nor would I really want to give that example to my kids. The authors seem to have confused foolhardy with spirited.
The story is slow and takes a long time to get going. Mostly, it’s about Marion seeing items as clues throughout the area – but do we need so many of them to understand the supernatural element of the local story? The authors drop clues like candy, willy nilly and far too obviously. More care could have been taken with pacing and plotting to make for a tighter and more engaging story.
The illustration work serves the story well, though Marion kept reminding me of Lilo, from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. But again, the visual cues were far too obvious and even in a book for younger children, subtlety would have been more rewarding for rereads.
I think the key here is that the book is missing a bit of sophistication. It stays very general – from the plot to the small twist at the end. I kept expecting something more but was disappointed that nothing more came of the ending. But it is an easy read and uncomplicated. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.