Middle Grade on Monday: The Shark Caller -Zillah Bethell

Desperate to become a shark caller to avenge the death of her parents, Blue Wing is instead charged with befriending infuriating newcomer Maple. At first they are angry and out of sync with the island and each other. But when the tide breathes the promise of treasure, can they overcome their differences and brave the deadliest shark in the ocean?

I received this book through Netgalley, and am so grateful for it…. because it was Amazing. This is the book I wanted The Line Tender to be, but so much better.

The story follows Blue Wing on New Ireland, and island of Papua New Guinea. After Blue Wing’s parents died two years ago she moved in with the Shark Caller of the village. She is desperate to become a shark caller herself, but her waspapi doesn’t want to teach her because she is a girl. And because he is scared she will use it to take revenge. When an American scientist and his daughter Maple arrive on the island, Blue Wing is asked to show Maple around and keep her company. What follows is a clash of cultures and a lot of anger… which develops in a beautiful friendship.

The story is beautifully written. The islanders aren’t fluent English speakers and have their own words, all of which is very well handled. The author herself grew up in Papua New Guinea, and it shows. What might have seemed strange and ‘savage’ in our eyes, now feels natural. It really is beautiful setting that Zillah has made come to live before our eyes.

And the story itself is beautiful as well.

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This is when Blue Wing tells Maple and her father about her parents died… and she may not have been crying at the time, but I surely was. And it wasn’t the only time tears rolled down my face either. This is a story about friendship, grief, forgiveness, moving on… and all of it is very raw yet beautifully handled.

And then there was the ending, which completely took me by surprise. Looking back at it the hints were there, throughout the whole story. Yet I never suspected a thing. It has been a long time a book has pulled of such a brilliant twist for me, one I never expected and hit me right in the feels. Just, Wow.

I had one minor issue with this book (I wasn’t the biggest fan of the real reason Maple’s father came to the island), but everything else more than made up for that. This is a book that I foresee sticking with me for a long time still, and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t make my favourites of the year. Please do yourself a massive favour, and pick this up!

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