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When Oceans Rise - Review

*I received an audio copy from Tides Collide Publishing via NetGalley. All reviews are my own.*

Yall. This book is right here. I have never felt this emotionally anxious since reading Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis. I have never been this pissed off about a book since reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I now have this new title, When Oceans Rise by Robin Alvarez, to add to my list of 'Rage By Books.' YALL! Mrs. Alvarez, whatever point you were trying to come across with telling this story, you made it.

"Submerged in a toxic relationship and disconnected from everyone, she turns to the sea to decide her fate. Its decision? Toss her to the sea witch.
Seventeen-year-old Malaya is cursed. In her family, every girl’s first love ends in death after falling for someone evil. Good thing Malaya’s dream guy isn’t monstrous.
Except the curse is real and preventing Malaya from noticing how much he has gaslit and isolated her until she can’t be saved. With no other options, the sea witch is the only one to help her. Bartering her voice for a new life where she and her abusive boyfriend never met, Malaya accidentally swaps places with an alternate timeline version of herself who didn’t make her mistakes. As she tries to undo the switch, the sea witch uses Malaya’s voice to unleash Filipino mythological creatures into the worlds.
Can a champion, an alternate timeline sister, and Malaya fight these beasts and stop the sea witch before she destroys both timelines?"


Before I get into the details, I want to tick off some minor thoughts. First, the cover is to die for! I won't say that the jacket is why I picked up this audio, but I will say it helped. The illustration is absolutely gorgeous, and whoever did it snapped. Secondly, I mentioned I did view this book via audio. I wasn't a fan of the narrator, Jennifer Aquino. Between the first quarter of the story and Aquino's storytelling, this book almost resulted in a DNF. Luckily, the novel won me over, and I could bypass Aquino's voice. I found her stiff and robotic. Thirdly, I applaud Alvarez for making a content warning paragraph in the Author's Note section. If not for that, I would have judged the main character harshly and viewed the outcome of this story way differently.


One of the biggest hurdles I had to come to terms with regarding this story was the use of the word "Mental Illness." It seems like everyone has a mental illness these days. Now, I'm not taking the condition away from the people who battle their demons, but I would be remiss if I hadn't noticed marketing companies have used this word and dragged it through the mud to the point where most people can't take it seriously. These days, I feel like the majority. With that being said, the main character Malaya's lack of self-esteem and insecurities is considered a mental illness, and I had to take a step back and ponder on that. I come from an era where teenage firsts (crush, relationship, loss of virginity, etc.) are all a part of growing up. We all go through the questionable moments of whether we're good enough, pretty enough, popular enough, etc. So, to equate low self-esteem with mental illness didn't seem right to me. Don't get me wrong, the girl is in a very toxic relationship and knows that she's in one, but she still makes up excuses for the behavior. It all stems down to self-doubt. While I understand in today's day and age, that can be seen as a form of mental illness, I still can't grasp that a human uncertainty that everybody goes through is now classified as a disorder.

Thank God for the Author's note warning us about the nonsensical character decisions because once I started recognizing the signs of gaslighting, blatant lying, isolation, and ultimately physical abuse, I got angry. I got angry for Malaya, and then I got angry at her. But the story doesn't necessarily revolve around this abusive relationship. Once we meet the Ursula of the Philippines, Malaya's story changes.

I did like the use of The Little Mermaid mixed with Filipino mythology in the tale. I've been picking up more books with Filipino backgrounds, so I'm starting to recognize some of the monsters and lore I encounter. I also like how Alvarez spun the story so it wasn't about finding the right romance in another lifetime. It was about choices. Malaya got to see different friendships with different people, how well she got along with her family, and how she could find a love interest the right way in a different reality. Multi-universes and alternate dimensions are all the rage right now, so Malaya experiencing a different timeline was a lesson and a curse for her to learn and grow from.

Overall, I rated this book 3.5 stars. To say that this book is triggering is evident by my three-paragraph rant, but it was more than just abuse. The Butterfly Effect gave the story a taste of do-overs in an alternate universe. I wasn't expecting a sci-fi take on the book, but it was well-received and helped with the mission of healing self-doubt.

When Oceans Rise is available now!

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