Sanchez, Alex. You Brought Me the Ocean. Julie Maroh – Illustrator. DC Comics, 2020. 186p. ISBN: 9781401290818. $16.99. MS, HS, OT, H/L, AT *****
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is a strange place for a kid who is called to the ocean. Plus, Jake has a connection to the ocean that is powerful. Ever since his father drowned, his mother is overly protective of him and so Jake doesn’t even swim. That doesn’t stop him from having a massive crush on Kenny Liu, the openly gay swim team captain. There are just a couple problems. For one thing, Jake isn’t out, not even to his best friend Maria who has feelings for Jake that are more than just friends. Also, Jake is the only black kid in town and Kenny the only Asian kid and Truth or Consequences isn’t exactly the most accepting place in the world. Never mind that Jake is determined to go to the University of Miami; he even applied without telling anyone, in part because nobody wants him to leave. There are secrets and then there are secrets. And Jake’s biggest secret has to do with the blue markings on his skin that enable him to control water in ways that shouldn’t be possible.
This is a beautifully drawn and told coming of age graphic novel that also happens to be an Aqualad origin story. However, non-superhero readers can be reassured that the super storyline takes a back seat to the more human explorations of identity that Jake faces. There are no real battles or good versus evil show-downs except for the ones that could happen to any teen. As happens in real life, Jake’s intersectional identities complicate what is already a complicated time. Race, sexuality, family dynamics, and geography are wound together in a story of friendship and romance that is positive and sweet. The imagery and images are well-paired and Maroh’s art evokes the desert landscape and the importance of water in Jake’s life in a way that draws the eye and enhances the story without taking over. Hand this one to DC fans for sure, but also hand it to fans of queer romance and lovely graphic novels about teens working out how to fully express themselves.
–Andrea Mullarkey, Berkeley Public Library
Tags: Comics, Coming of age, Diverse, LGBTQ+, People of color, Supernatural