Goodreads Review Of Ray Litt’s Westward To Strange

My teenage years are very far behind me, and furthermore I’m male, so I’m certainly not one of the readers this novel is primarily aimed at, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Lately I’ve been looking at a few young adult novels because I’m toying with the idea of writing one myself, and this one particularly caught my eye because its language is quick-footed and fun to read. Practically every sentence sparkles with lively details that immediately bring the characters and places to life.

The story involves spooky mermaids and mermen that will remind you more of H. P. Lovecraft than Hans Christian Anderson. But there’s more to the story than sea monsters, and the author takes her time getting to them. A family mystery, a book of magic spells, folklore about a creepy cult, the first stirrings of desire and love (or at least infatuation), and a number of other elements are given time to develop before the tale leads us fully into the “dark waters” that are hinted at in the first chapter. Some of these plot threads may seem irrelevant at first, but many of them end up playing an important part when the whole tapestry is revealed. A few readers may feel impatient waiting for the “good stuff” to happen, but I think most will enjoy the motion and life and the gradually mounting sense of suspense that leads to the climax, which is well worth waiting for.

The author has a gift for language that seems to flow effortlessly like the ocean that she writes about. Even when the ocean is calm it’s always moving, its surface always glittering with gems of sunlight or moonlight—until the moon itself vanishes, and then the ocean is black and seemingly fathomless, like the dark and mysterious place that this novel finally brings us to.