By Olive Dausinas
June is Pride Month, the perfect time to take a look at stories revolving exclusively around LGBT characters. As time progresses, more stories are released covering more and more territory and telling stories that have yet to be told. The month had not even yet really begun before I picked up a book I had been highly anticipating: a love story between a human and a selkie, Molly Knox Ostertag’s The Girl from the Sea.
Morgan wants nothing more than to be able to leave the small island in which she lives, where she plays a role that is the opposite of who she is. Her parents are divorced, her younger brother lashes out at her, and her friends never really feel like friends. Every seven years, however, the lone selkie, Keltie, who lives in the waters near the island is able to take on human form and seeks out companionship from Morgan. As Morgan grows closer to Keltie, she slowly gravitates away from her friends and family, who she wishes would just let her be. But her hidden relationship with Keltie may or may not be only based on something Keltie wants, and that may end it.
Relationships are the core of The Girl from the Sea. Despite Morgan’s relationship with Keltie being the one on display, the story also touches on her familial ties and her distancing relationships with her friends. While being with Keltie allows Morgan to grow more and be herself, this creates a problematic paradox for her as well. Morgan hides away from other people who care about her, as she has convinced herself their caring for her is only surface level. But she still cares too much about what others think, meaning she pushes Keltie away and makes her relationship with her hidden. As a result, all of Morgan’s relationships decay one way or another, and keeping all of her relationships separate only serves to harm them.
It would be impossible to not mention that if one enjoys this story, then they might also enjoy the work of Noelle Stevenson, Ostertag’s spouse. Having worked on many comics and graphic novels, one of her most notable stories is Nimona. It follows many familiar queer themes of found family and rebelling against societal norms. Another similar story, though more grounded in reality, is Giant Days, written by John Allison. It follows three flatmates in their university years, and discovering each one’s self.
The Girl from the Sea is extremely well written, following in the successful steps of Ostertag’s previous work on The Witch Boy trilogy. The characters are written with very realistic motivations and are not all perfect. Morgan wants to be herself and be out, but she is too preoccupied with how she thinks others perceive her, so she separates everyone into boxes to keep away. This is a very realistic way of thinking, even staying closeted when she knows her mother would be supportive. She knows she would not receive a negative reaction from her mother, but closeted people still keep their sexualities and gender identities secret from their parents. Personal safety and the question of whether something could go wrong is always part of that secrecy, and the story doubles down on why someone being outed is an extremely bad thing. Keltie, on the other hand, is a selkie and has a positive relationship with her seal family. Thus, it becomes much harder for her to adjust to human relationships, and she finds it hard to understand Morgan’s need to keep Keltie secret. Rightfully so, she knows this is a negative influence on their relationship, but she has her own secrets as well. It doesn’t erase her feelings for Morgan, but keeping them from her ends up nearly destroying their romance. Keeping secrets and the negative effect they have on people’s relationships is handled wonderfully. The story does suffer from not developing the negative relationship between Morgan and her friends, and while it does hint at it, it’s one of the least developed parts of the story.
Not only is The Girl from the Sea a perfect entry in the growing list of queer graphic novels, it comes out at possibly the most perfect time. Pride Month and the beginning of summer makes this love story a definite recommendation, with a perfect vibe that matches the seasonal change.
Between the story’s beautiful art and incredible writing, this story shows the continued evolution of not only queer stories but graphic novels as a medium. It’s a brilliant way to start one’s summer of reading. And with the continuation of Pride Month, there are many other great stories being released, with this one standing out as one of the best starts for releases.