Wednesday, June 29, 2022

We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida


I impulsively bought WE RUN THE TIDES without really knowing what it was about when it went on sale because it's set in San Francisco (which ended up being a huge treat for me, because I've been to about 90% of the places mentioned in this book). It was just languishing on my Kindle until my friend, Heather, told me that she was just about to read it, and then we decided to do an impromptu buddy read.

WE RUN THE TIDES is a coming of age work of literary fiction. Some people are shelving it as YA because the heroine and her friends are 13-14, but even though I'm sure this would be accessible for teens, it's really a book for adults. Eulabee is the daughter of an American father and a Swedish mother. She has three friends: Faith, Julia, and Maria Fabiola, her beautiful best friend.

The four of them attend a private school for girls, and in an era before TikTok or internet, there isn't much to do but to roam the streets of San Francisco and get into shenanigans. But as with any horror novel involving children, everyone knows that when kids get bored, they can become quite cruel. And these girls are no exceptions. As they discover themselves and their sexuality, they start to become incredibly dangerous-- but the world also becomes dangerous for them. And the book ends up tackling some pretty heavy subjects, like toxic friendships, predatory behavior, and lies.

I don't want to say too much about this book because less is definitely more, but it's pretty dark. Also, I think there's a rule in literary fiction that all sex scenes have to be gross, and there has to be at least one gnarly scene involving private parts that makes you cringe (this one had at least two). The heroine is a sort of unreliable narrator; she's cold and self-serving, and you can tell that she's definitely spinning the narrative. And since her friends are as manipulative as she is, sometimes the heroine is left in the dark, too. I think people who enjoy Megan Abbott's work will really enjoy this because she really captures the intense mean girl friendship dynamics that occur between teen girls, and how quickly it can turn toxic.

Unfortunately, since all the kids are such jerks, it means that there isn't really someone to root for. This is largely a character-driven novel, and it's as much about the city of San Francisco in its "heydey" before all the tech people moved in and gentrified it, as it is about these girls who get into things way over their heads. It's also probably going to be triggering for some people, because the author examines how creepy dudes (apparently most dudes) could be in the era before #MeToo. Literally every boy and man in this book says or does something skeevy. So there isn't really much of a plot beyond exploring that, and the girls interacting with their environment.

Despite that, I liked the book. It did some daring things and the ending was great. I could see this becoming an indie movie or a Netflix movie. It has that kind of retro cinematic vibe.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

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