Cover of Hold Back the Tide: A girl dives in the water as a man stands above the water, there are red streams of blood in the water.

About the Book

Title: Hold Back the Tide
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Don’t Ignore the “No Swimming” Signs
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Atmospheric
Bonus Factors: Nessie
Relationship Status: My Emo Lab Partner

Cover Story: Don’t Ignore the “No Swimming” Signs

I partially picked this book up because of the cover. That little hint of the blood in the water over the last word in the title…shivers down my spine, in a good way. What can I say? I like horror.

The Deal:

Alva lives with a murderer. Her father killed her mother one fateful evening when Alva was a child, and since then, she’s lived her life according to the rules like, don’t draw attention to yourself, or, if you can’t be invisible, be useful. And the most important: don’t make them angry. Alva’s father is the watcher of the loch for their tiny village, Ormscaula, duty-bound to report the rises and falls of the water levels and anything out of the ordinary. But lately Alva’s noticed the water keeps going down, down, down, and her father still hasn’t said a word. Whatever choice Alva makes, she’s putting her life on the line. 

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Alva is quite isolated from her village, both physically and because the unofficial town mayor, Giles Stewart, believes Alva’s father did, in fact, kill her mother, but has no way of proving it, so she is ostracized by association. Growing up in such a stressful environment has left its mark on Alva, so I found her to be pretty serious, self-reliant, and no-nonsense. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be like one of the jerky girls who stuck their nose up at her, but rather extend a hand of friendship like Murren Ross or Gavan Stewart, who know a good soul when they see it.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Alva’s got her go-bag all ready and an escape plan in place to get away from her father, and she doesn’t plan to leave behind any ties to Ormscaula. But the town’s other social outcast, Murren Ross, isn’t going to let her go without laying his heart on the line. Their moments together were sweet and ripe with doomed young love.

Talky Talk: Atmospheric

I was really digging the location of this story: the misty mountains and hills of the Highlands in Scotland, far off the beaten path and set during an indeterminate time period (pre-motorized vehicles is the best I’ve got). It has all the trappings of a spooky, atmospheric horror novel and for a while you aren’t sure where the evil will materialize: is Alva’s father who we should be afraid of? Is there actually a presence lurking about in the water? Or is this a cautionary tale about Giles Stewart and the unchecked power these freaking villagers allow him to have over their lives??

I’m not sure if the outcome of the story really met all my expectations, and it definitely didn’t exceed them, but I hesitate to reveal too much because the reveals are part of the fun. All in all, it was an easy read that sped along at a fast clip. If you’re looking for a YA that’s dark and a bit haunting then you could do worse.

Bonus Factor: Nessie?

A loch in Scotland with Nessie the Loch Ness Monster standing in the water.

No, it’s not Nessie the Loch Ness Monster hiding under those gently lapping waves, but there IS something, and it’s…appropriately freaky.

Relationship Status: My Emo Lab Partner

We didn’t spend a ton of time together, Book, but fate lab assignments brought us together and the tales you told me as we dissected that frog were fanciful and creepy. Though we should probably pick different partners for the chemistry module—best of luck!

Literary Matchmaking

Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1)

A book that delivered on the creep factor AND great storytelling is Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces (and its sequel!).

Bent Heavens

If you didn’t think this book gave you enough of the wiggins, then perhaps you’re looking for Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus.

A Castle in the Clouds

Thinking of Scotland makes me think of Switzerland because I vacationed to both right after each other, so this Match probably won’t make sense to anyone but me, but if you want more mysteries heavy on the European country atmosphere, look no further than Kerstin Gier’s Castle in the Clouds.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Scholastic. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Hold Back the Tide is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.