••• The International Writers Magazine:Review
TIDE by Sam North,
Lulu Press - 234 pp, paperback
by Charlie Dickinson
hero of Sam North's young adult novel MEAN TIDE is Oliver,
a survivor of much at his tender age of twelve years,
and a likable lad coming to terms with a quite odd and
mysterious adult world about him. From
the opening pages of MEAN TIDE, the reader is transported
into Oliver's world with compelling and salient sensory
of North's storytelling talents is he gets the basics of
Oliver's world right. For example, what is Oliver's strongest
yearning? Is it that he'd be reunited with his father who's
gone missing in Africa? Or that his mother, institutionally
lost in the world of the insane, will return? No, it's about
his hair, or lack thereof. He survived a brain tumor, endured
chemotherapy, and now wants nothing more than to stop being
bald as an egg. He simply yearns for the return of the first
fuzz. He doesn't want to wear hats the rest of his life.
Seemingly a vain yearning, true, but just talk to any juvenile
who's had a bout with cancer and see what they really want
out of life.
Having survived cancer and bereft of both parents, Oliver
makes his way to the southeast reaches of Greater London
in Greenwich by the River Thames with his beloved cat Flop.
Together, the two take up residence with a cast of offbeat
characters, headed by Oliver's Grandma Otis.
Mysterious goings-on abound: seances with the dead, criminal
activity, a dead body or two washed up on the river tide.
Through all the adventures, Oliver soldiers on with curiosity,
finding perhaps a "chosen" family for the one
he earlier lost.
One of author North's narrative skills as we follow Oliver's
youthful exploits is a seamless switching of point of view.
Without a bobble, we go from Oliver's mind into that of
Grandma Otis and back to Oliver's (or even into cat Flop's!).
The POV switches makes these unusual characters all the
As a young adult novel, MEAN TIDE has several strengths.
Oliver is thrown in a new world, pluckily managing to make
it his, while at the same time partaking some of its rewards,
comfort, and mystery (as discovering his psychic talents).
The blossoming of a simpatico friendship with the older
but fragile Aura teaches him about coping with illness in
life. A love interest in mysterious Justine. The continuing
companionship of his indefatigable cat Flop.
At novel's end, Oliver faces an upbeat future--even without
hoped-for fuzz on his bald pate. He's earned confidence
from sorting out a lot among his new "family"
and keen appreciation for the adventure becoming a young
adult can be. The reader closes Oliver's story, knowing
the hero has made up for a lot of personal loss in its first
pages and sees Oliver as stronger for his unstinting effort.
Though a young adult novel, MEAN TIDE is recommended for
narrative sophistication that will appeal to readers of
Review: 'An engaging, unusual and completely engrossing read'
- Beverly Birch author of 'Rift'