Changing Tide Robert Joncas book review
book review

Book Review: Changing Tide

Nothing is as it seems in Robert Joncas’s CHANGING TIDE, a speculative sci-fi page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Reviewed by Nick Rees Gardner.

Changing Tide

by Robert Joncas

Genre: Young Adult / Sci-Fi & Fantasy

ISBN: 9798987150108

Print Length: 260 pages

Reviewed by Nick Rees Gardner

Nothing is as it seems in Robert Joncas’s Changing Tide, a speculative sci-fi page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

For Skye, life is a series of rude awakenings. Ripped from her comfortable life in Arizona, she is faced with multiple deaths, a drug-addled mother, and a boyfriend who may or may not be cheating on her. 

Robert Joncas’s Changing Tide begins as a realistic coming of age novel featuring a young woman faced with endless traumas, but it becomes much more. Joncas brings in sci-fi and fantasy elements of magic seashells and aliens to create a call to adventure. The result is a book about Skye Connor, a young woman, who, against all odds, overcomes loss and trauma to save the world.

When Skye is ripped from her comfortable life in Arizona in the wake of her father’s tragic death, she doesn’t believe in the supernatural or aliens. Thus she remains skeptical when, on a walk along the beach outside her Nana’s house in Crescent Cove, California, she finds a giant conch shell that seems to be able to speak to her. Little does she know that contained in the shell is the soul of an ancient alien, one with whom she has a special bond. 

After her mother overdoses, Skye is riddled with guilt and falls into the arms of Paul, a somewhat untrustworthy character whom she believes harbors a secret. In a series of surprising events, however, Paul, Skye, and Nana find themselves on a mission that leads them to the Grand Canyon where they must face a group of evil overlords and save the world from destruction. 

Right off the bat, Joncas introduces family problems and a love interest. Skye’s mother is a drugged-out husk who fights with Skye, but her Grandma (Nana) is an old hippie who “probably planned (her) beach retirement while sitting around smoking pot at Woodstock.” The plot seems straightforward, except for the ominous, speculative element of the talking conch shell. However, Joncas twists your expectations to make you confront an alien invasion. It is a shock, not unwelcome, but requiring a lot of worldbuilding as both Skye and the reader’s “normal” world is transformed into one with aliens inhabiting humans to fight off evil overlords. 

Similar twists and surprises come with a frequency that can leave the reader reeling. Characters are killed off suddenly and mysteriously. One character, Karly, resorts to attempted murder due to her jealousy over Paul and Skye’s relationship, a plot point that, rather than being resolved, is dropped after a tense confrontation. Though many of these deaths and near-deaths are necessary to drive the plot forward, they are eclipsed halfway through the book by the aliens’ attacks. Overall, though the twists keep the reader riveted, they also lead the reader in many different directions, small distractions that make it difficult to see where the story is going.

Even so, the book is hard to put down. Some surprises are harsh, such as the death of Skye’s mother, while others come in the form of humorous asides that break the tension. In an especially tense scene, while Skye, Nana, and Paul traverse a narrow tunnel, Skye smells “A whiff of sulfurous air, like rotten eggs.” It is a smell that seems foreboding until, just a couple sentences later, Nana admits that she farted. 

As a book of young adult science fiction, Robert Joncas’s Changing Tide offers all the shock, creativity, and humor a reader would look for in a novel with memorable characters facing seemingly insurmountable odds. While it jerks the reader in many different directions, the story remains focussed on Skye, a character written with enough care to make the reader want to follow her to whatever strange places she leads them. A fun book, distinctive, quirky, and with enough charm to keep a reader engaged.

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