Highest Tide: A Novel

Highest Tide: A Novel

4.0 21
by Jim Lynch

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A mesmerizing, allegorical, and beautifully wrought first novel about one boy’s fascination with the sea during the summer that will change his life.

One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles O’Malley slips out of his house, packs up his kayak and goes exploring on the flats of Puget Sound. But what begins as an ordinary hunt for starfish,

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A mesmerizing, allegorical, and beautifully wrought first novel about one boy’s fascination with the sea during the summer that will change his life.

One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles O’Malley slips out of his house, packs up his kayak and goes exploring on the flats of Puget Sound. But what begins as an ordinary hunt for starfish, snails, and clams is soon transformed by an astonishing sight: a beached giant squid. As the first person to ever see a giant squid alive, the speed-reading Rachel Carson-obsessed insomniac instantly becomes a local curiosity. When he later finds a rare deepwater fish in the tidal waters by his home, and saves a dog from drowning, he is hailed as a prophet. The media hovers and everyone wants to hear what Miles has to say.

But Miles is really just a teenager on the verge of growing up, infatuated with the girl next door, worried that his bickering parents will divorce, and fearful that everything, even the bay he loves, is shifting away from him. While the sea continues to offer up discoveries from its mysterious depths, Miles struggles to deal with the difficulties that attend the equally mysterious process of growing up. In this mesmerizing, beautifully wrought first novel, we witness the dramatic sea change for both Miles and the coastline that he adores over the course of a summer—one that will culminate with the highest tide in fifty years.

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Editorial Reviews

Julia Livshin
Lynch is a natural storyteller, and he brings the sea to our door. He also accomplishes the admirable feat of rendering the voice of a 13-year-old both believable and engrossing. Even as those out-of-this-world sea creatures—giant cucumbers that disgorge their innards when spooked and then regenerate them on the spot; barnacles with reproductive organs "rolled up like fire hoses"—threaten to steal the show.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The fertile strangeness of marine tidal life becomes a subtly executed metaphor for the bewilderments of adolescence in this tender and authentic coming-of-age novel, Lynch's first. As a precocious, undersized 13-year-old living on the shore of Puget Sound, in Washington State, Miles O'Malley has developed a consuming passion for the abundant life of the tidal flats. His simple pleasure in observing is tested and complicated over the course of a remarkable summer, when he finds a giant squid, a discovery that brings him the unwelcome attention of scientists, TV reporters and a local cult. Meanwhile, Miles's remote parents are considering a divorce; his best friend, Florence, an elderly retired psychic, is dying of a degenerative disease; his sex-obsessed buddy, Phelps, mocks his science-geek knowledge; and his desperate crush on Angie Stegner, the troubled girl next door, both inspires and humiliates him. Events build toward the date of a record high tide, and Miles slowly sorts out his place in the adult world. While occasionally Lynch packs too much into a small story, this moving, unusual take on the summers of childhood conveys a contagious sense of wonder at the variety and mystery of the natural world. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley is a self-taught expert in the marine life of Puget Sound; he loves to spend summer nights in his kayak looking for unusual sea creatures-an activity that attracts the media when he finds not only a rare giant squid but also a ragfish and other sea life foreign to the bay. At one point, Miles predicts that an extremely high tide will occur near the end of summer, and when it comes, some homes are washed away. This "highest tide" is an ecological climax as well as a personal one for Miles: his parents separate; his elderly neighbor and best friend Florence dies; and Miles realizes that he is in love with Angie Stegner, once his babysitter and now the star of a local rock band. Particularly eloquent when writing about the sea, award-winning journalist Lynch offers beautiful descriptions filled with quiet passion. In addition, Miles responds believably to new situations and those around him. Unfortunately, when it comes to his sexual awakening, the novel declines into juvenile mediocrity that contrasts sharply with the remainder of this exquisite tale. Nonetheless, easily recommended for all libraries.-Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley's nightly kayaking trips contribute to his expertise on the natural life of the Puget Sound tidal flats. On one of his nocturnal forays, Miles discovers a giant squid, a creature that has never before been sighted in the area, and he becomes a phenomenon. Before long, a spiritual group begins to revere him as a prophet because of his prediction of a high tide in the bay and Miles finds himself in the middle of a firestorm of publicity. The protagonist is not a typical teen: captivated by Rachel Carson's writings, he is interested in reading and in safeguarding the secrets of an elderly friend whose health is declining. But many things are changing in his life: his parents separate; he develops an unlikely friendship with an older boy who is obsessed with sex; and Miles himself hungers after the attention of the out-of-control girl next door. Lynch's lyrical writing holds great interest for teens concerned about the natural world; the book's haunting images will linger in their minds as they contemplate the relationship between the sea's mysteries and Miles's growing understanding of the mysteries of his life.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A shrimpy 13-year-old with a super-sized passion for marine life comes of age during a summer of discovery on the tidal flats of Puget Sound. Miles O'Malley-Squid Boy to his friends-doesn't mind being short. It's other things that keep him awake at night, like his parents' talk of divorce and his increasingly lustful thoughts about the girl next door. Mostly, though, it's the ocean's siren call that steals his sleep. During one of his moonlit kayak excursions, Miles comes across the rarest sighting ever documented in the northern Pacific: the last gasp of a Giant Squid. Scientists are stunned. The media descend. As Miles continues to stumble across other oddball findings, including two invasive species that threaten the eco-balance of Puget Sound, a nearby new-age cult's interest in Miles prompts a headline in USA Today: Kid Messiah? Soon tourists are flocking to the tidal flats, crushing crustaceans underfoot and painting their bodies with black mud. Dodging disingenuous journalists, deluded disciples and the death-throes of his parents' marriage, Miles tries to recapture some semblance of normality. He reads up on the G-spot and the Kama Sutra to keep pace with his pals' bull sessions about sex (hilariously contributing "advanced" details that gross the other boys out). But Miles's aquatic observations cannot be undone, and as summer draws to a close, inhabitants of Puget Sound prepare for a national blitzkrieg of media and scientific attention and the highest tide in 40 years, all of which threatens everything Miles holds dear. On land, the rickety plot could have used some shoring up. Miles is just too resourceful for the reader to believe his happiness-or that of those he loves-isever at stake. But when Miles is on the water, Lynch's first novel becomes a stunning light show, both literal, during phosphorescent plankton blooms, and metaphorical, in the poetic fireworks Lynch's prose sets off as he describes his clearly beloved Puget Sound. A celebratory song of the sea.

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Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)
1100L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Jim Lynch has won national journalism awards and published short fiction in literary magazines and spent four years as the Puget Sound reporter for the Oregonian. A Washington state native, Lynch currently writes and sails from his home in Olympia, where he lives with his wife and daughter. The Highest Tide is his first novel.

Brief Biography

Olympia, Washington
Date of Birth:
November 3, 1961
Place of Birth:
Seattle, Washington
B.A.s in English and Journalism, 1985

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