Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
"Learning to Swim is a darkly romantic beginning to what promises to be an unusual contemporary YA fantasy series." --Serena Chase, USA Today
When Cora’s mother whisks the family away for the summer, Cora must decide between forging her future in the glimmering world of second homes where her parents belong, or getting lost in the bewitching world of the locals and the mystery surrounding a lonely old woman who claims to be a selkie creature—and who probably needs Cora more than anyone else.
Through the fantastical tales and anguished stories of the batty Mrs. O’Leary, as well as the company of a particularly gorgeous local boy called Ronan, Cora finds an escape from the reality of planning her life after high school. But will it come at the cost of alienating Cora’s mother, who struggles with her own tragic memories?
As the summer wanes, it becomes apparent that Ronan just may hold the answer to Mrs. O’Leary’s tragic past—and Cora’s future.
I was contacted by the author of this book asking me if I wanted to take the opportunity to read and review this book, good or bad. I was informed there was magical realism and Celtic mythology included in the book and obviously jumped at the chance.
Going In Blind Can Be A Good Thing
I’m never sure what to expect when you’re asked to review a book by an author, it’s strange to me because you normally discover a book rather than having it presented to you. It makes you question whether you would have been interested in the book if you had discovered it on your own. I went in with no preconceptions, though. I was nervous, but excited to see what the book would include and, rather surprisingly, I was in no way disappointed.
I knew there was magical realism involved in this book as well as Celtic mythology, they were the things that made me agree to read and review this book, but I still don't think I was prepared for the story I got. I hadn’t really thought about the summary too much, I literally knew that there was Celtic mythology and that this was more about the characters than any strict genre. I’m glad I knew so little going in because it made this book utterly enchanting.
It’s About Self Discovery and Growing Up
As the book begins you learn the main character, Cora, has quite a privileged upbringing and I thought I wouldn’t like her. I was fully prepared to roll my eyes and think ‘not another rich girl’, but that never happened. Instead, I found Cora really interesting. She was rich, but she didn’t want to conform to the life which was expected of her. This entire book was about Cora trying to figure out her future, her family, and herself. Sure, her romance with Rory was intriguing and insanely fun, especially with their butting of heads at the beginning, but that wasn't the true focus of this book. All I really cared about was Cora figuring things out for herself. Discovering what she planned for her future and what she wanted from life outside of her parents expectations. She grew as a person and discovered new things about herself and I loved it in so many ways.
Another character I loved was that of Mrs O’Leary. I think I liked her even before Cora did. The first scene she was in she came across as a lonely, but very crazy, old woman talking to a stranger, it was sweet. As time went on and Cora visited her more often I began to love her tales of mythology just as much as Cora did. Sure, I felt the Celtic myths made the story itself blindingly obvious for me, but I don’t mind being able to predict a storyline when it’s written well, and this book was.
My only complaint? The fact that I need to read the second book to get some story resolution. I need to know what happens after the ending of this book. Cora has had some shocking realisation and I want to know what happens Next. Learning to Live will definitely be a book I purchase soon because this book keeps niggling at the back of my mind.
So… Basically, I Loved It
Overall, this book was great. It was a quick and easy read, I finished it in a few hours on Sunday night and immediately had to type out all my thoughts on it. This isn’t a ground-breaking read, but I didn’t want that from it anyway. Instead, it’s a book which follows the growth of a girl freshly graduated from high school and the connections she makes with people in a small coastal town. It’s great, with some really interesting myths included which will definitely make you want to get Googling things. I recommend it for fans of YA and magical realism.
Have you read any good magical realism books or books which include mythology?