The following review contains untagged spoilers regarding the ending of the book in the final paragraph and brief mentions of specific scenes throughout the book.
I wish I could explain why this book means so much to be but I can’t. I don’t even know where to start. It’s been a month or more since I read the book and it still takes up so much of my headspace. I’m going to tell you about it alongside some of my favourite quotes.
//“I ignore people who need me and latch on to people who don’t. I dive into every other world except my own just because I want something more glamorous than my real life. I do destructive shit so a stupid hypocritical fish will like me.”
Rudy’s family has moved to a remote island where there’s magical fish that can cure serious illnesses, hoping to cure his younger brother’s cystic fibrosis. As the only teenager on the island, Rudy is bored and lonely until he meets and starts a tentative friendship with Teeth, the ugliest half-human half-fish (not quite a merman) that he has ever seen.
Their relationship is completely flawed and dysfunctional, but the characters are so beautifully written that I was in love with their complexity and desperation and charm. There were moments where I was having doubts about the story – was it too dark, too sad, too depressing – but then Rudy and Teeth stole my heart, and I didn’t need to suspend my disbelief in Moskowitz’s ability for a moment, and this book has made its way onto my favourites list.
// “I close my eyes and listen to the ocean. I’m thinking about sailing, to England or maybe France. The way the wind would feel on my face and the sound of his voice screaming my name through his laughter. The waves would crash like applause.”
I love the setting of this book so much because it reminds me of home. The descriptions were incredibly vivid, saying so much in few words. I’ve lived my entire life within fifteen minutes of the ocean, surrounded by grey storms and fishing villages and freezing cold salt water. And it was this sense of familiarity that fully brought me into the world, feeling the sea breeze and smelling salt in the air as I turned each page. Well, swiped my phone screen. I need a physical copy of this book to hold and cherish forever.
// “I wish we would all just fall apart so I wouldn’t have to listen to the downfall happen, so slowly, so painfully.”
Teeth has a tortured-hero complex. As a half-fish, he feels as if he has a responsibility to protect the fish from the fisherman who torture and abuse him for this. He’s abandoned and unloved and naïve but he feels as if he has a purpose. He feels so realistic, which is a strange thing to say about a fishboy. I want anyone reading this review to go meet him and care about him and fall in love with him too. But be aware that there is graphic content that may be triggering to some readers.
I said earlier that the Rudy and Teeth relationship stole my heart, but it broke it, too. I have a complicated relationship with the ending of this book. On one hand, the writing is so raw that the ending makes sense, emphasising all the chapters before of brutality and blood and darkness. On the other hand, the relationship is ‘unfinished’. I think they might’ve loved each other deep down, but they’re torn apart so suddenly that they never reach that point on page and there’s no closure. This is maybe the only book I’ve read where I wanted a kiss.
//“I’m afraid I’ll drown.”
If you’re looking for a twisted fairytale of magic and miracles and teeth and tears, this is for you. It deserves all the love and the reads and the stars. I want to throw myself into the ocean.
Rating: ★★★★★ (the full five)