When Oceans Rise Book Review

Caitlyn Wilson, Staff Writer

Trigger warnings:


When Oceans Rise by Robin Alvarez is a young adult, and dark fantasy novel that is a Fillipio retelling of The Little Mermaid and is set to be released on May 23, 2023. This book is a story that touches on the social stigma of “I would never let that happen to me” and includes depictions of gaslighting, and mental, emotional, and physical abuse. If you want a detailed list of all the content warnings, you can find them on Robin Alvarez’s website here. At the end of the content warnings Alvarez notes that the journey could be difficult, and that is a spot-on description of the first few chapters. It provokes emotions that readers may not be ready for or want to experience, but if you can make it through those few chapters, it adds so much to the emotional journey of this story. 


According to the stories told by

Malaya’s family, the girls are cursed to fall in love with someone evil, which leads to their eventual downfall. Malaya is unbelieving until she finds herself in a regrettable and dangerous position with a toxic boyfriend. Malaya’s boyfriend is gaslighting her and she is clueless as to how to fix it. One day when she’s surfing, she gets caught in a riptide, forcing her to trade her voice for a new start with a guy who seems way better than her ex. Little does she know though that the sea witch had stuck her into an alternate timeline, and that the sea witch is using Malaya’s voice to release monsters into both universes. To get back to her original timeline, Malaya must fight the monsters, but if she returns she may never see her new guy again. What would you do if you were so tremendously unhappy and still making all the wrong decisions? What would you do for another chance?

My Review/thoughts on the book:

This debut is an exciting story with a lot of fluctuating emotions, each portrayed beautifully. It was interesting to see and learn about Filipino culture. The story is well thought out, engaging, and unique, and the characters were beautifully created and represented. The action kept me on the edge of my seat on more than one occasion, and the ending left me sitting in all the feelings and with even more questions. The journey that Malaya goes through feels like one of those roller coasters that causes your stomach to be in your throat when you’re suspended in midair and you can’t think of anything but needing to breathe while also not being able to gasp in a single breath. Alvarez elegantly captures the struggles of real life within this novel, and it is easy to find relatable moments that bring you closer to Malaya. When Oceans Rise is a practical and authentic look into heartbreak, family life, and sacrifice. The book covers themes such as toxic relationships, friendships, how one decision could have led to a completely different life, and varying family dynamics. 

If this story seems like something you would enjoy, you can preorder the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more.