Jim Lynch’s 2006 novel, The Highest Tide, is a young adult book with an insightful twist on growing up. Told from the perspective of 13 year old Miles O’Malley, it serves as a means of following the young protagonist through a series of events much like those that one would expect from a teenager. Miles is enamored with marine biology, has a crush on the girl next door, and is concerned about the possibility of his parents getting a divorce, as a result of their increased fighting.

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He finds a live giant squid washed up in the tidal pools and is unsure of how to deal with the fame, or the portrayal of himself, and the condescension that he receives as a result of the notoriety brought about by finding the squid. The book closes with Miles being able to accept the tumultuous events of the summer and spend an easy camaraderie with his crush, Angie, his former babysitter, five years older than he. Through narration, Miles relates that “in the space of a summer I’d learned that everything was changing, including me. I grew six inches during the next ten months, then my voice dropped and tiny Miles O’Malley slipped away” (Lynch, p. 242).

Miles does not simply change in the physical manners that he describes however. Rather, Miles’ transformation is one mentally and emotionally as well as physically. The young boy who believed that everything would turn out alright simply because he wanted it to was no longer so naive. He learned which opinions mattered, and he learned how to accept responsibility for certain actions. Miles came to understand and value Angie for who she was to him, not who she could be, and he learned to accept the fact that he had no control over anyone’s actions but his own. In learning these lessons, Miles was able to truly grow into himself, turning from a hero worshiping young boy with a passion for Carson, the marine biologist, into an individual who was respected in his own right, discussing his own ideas instead of parroting someone else’s. He came to accept his parent’s separation, realizing that it was not his fault that such an event occurred, but that this was something between the two of them, and though it affected him, it was not something over which he had any control.

Lynch is able to clearly display the changes that take place in a teenager in this coming of age story set in Puget Sound. Miles is naïve enough to be believable, realistic enough to be relatable, and as a result of Lynch’s descriptive abilities, is able to tell a story that may captivate individuals of all ages. Miles has changed because he has grown up, and without these events, experiences, and tribulations, he would have been unable to grow as an individual in the same manner, but because of them, he was able to make the somewhat rocky transition into adulthood with less muss and fuss than some, albeit more than others. The Highest Tide serves as a striking reminder of what it was like to transition into the world of a teenager, and the harshness of the lesson that those you believe you can trust are not always the ones with your best interests at heart.