Miles O'Malley is a special kid. The main character of Jim Lynch's debut novel, The Highest Tide, is the smallest 13-year-old on the Washington coast. He's a speed-reading insomniac who is obsessed with Rachel Carson and the troubled girl next door, and who would rather spend time with the creatures of the tidal flats outside his home than with other kids his age. Miles uses his encyclopedic knowledge of the ocean and its inhabitants to collect specimens he sells to aquariums. On one of his late-night jaunts around the bay, Miles hears a strange sound, like a huge exhale. He soon finds himself face-to-face with a giant squid, a species that doesn't live anywhere near Puget Sound and which no one has ever seen alive. The next morning, the now-dead squid is discovered by the rest of the town, and Miles becomes a local celebrity. Sought after by journalists, pursued by cult members and all but ignored by his feuding parents, Miles tries to make sense of it all as his coming-of-age cleverly coincides with a period of tumult in the ocean and the world around him.

This beautiful novel is sure to charm readers with its stunning imagery and amazing characters. The sense of place is so strong in this book that reading it will feel like taking a vacation, and the characters, quirky, flawed and sad as they are, will not easily slip from memory. Lynch's language sparkles with his love of the ocean. While parts of The Highest Tide offer a catalog of ocean life many readers will have never heard of, the book gives ocean-dwellers and land-lubbers alike a glimpse of the unbelievable variety of sea life that is out there, if only people would notice it. Read this book and be left eagerly anticipating Lynch's next work. Sarah E. White is a writer in Arkansas.

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