(Young Adult) Oceanic Swells & The Vasty Deep

A List of YA Books & Movies Featuring That Sublime Creature, the Sea

Awesome waves in Hawaii

By REBECCA, August 24, 2012

Last time, on Crunchings & Munchings, Tessa gave us the scary and awesome list,  Moon Thrills and Planet Palpitations, featuring the totally delightful genre of Space Horror. Well, I’ve always thought that Outer Space and The Ocean were iterations of the same amazing, horrifying, dehumanizing, and sometimes delightful vastness. Besides that, as many of you know, I am completely and totally obsessed with the ocean, sea creatures, and books/movies featuring either. So, as a companion piece to Moon Thrills and Planet Palpitations, I give you Oceanic Swells & The Vasty Deep!


Maggie Stiefvater The Scorpio Races  Maggie Stiefvater The Scorpio Races

Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races

I reviewed The Scorpio Races here  a few weeks ago, and in a way it’s the inspiration for this list—a book that features the sea in all its many permutations: sublime, cradling, dangerous, alien, cleansing. Every November, on the shores of Thisby Island, men race the wild horses that rise up from the toiling waters—only one man may win, but many may die, bloodied and broken by their mounts, or dragged under the water with them, unable to resist their otherworldly call. Just . . . god . . . so good.

Kirsty Eagar Raw Blue  Kirsty Eagar Night Beach

Kirsty Eagar, Raw Blue & Night Beach

I haven’t read either of these books by Australian beach-lover Kirsty Eagar, but they’re both on my list. Especially Night Beach, which Goodreads describes thusly: “Abbie has three obsessions. Art. The ocean. And Kane. But since Kane’s been back, he’s changed. There’s a darkness shadowing him that only Abbie can see. And it wants her in its world.” It says that it’s a “gothic story about the very dark things that feed the creative process.” HELLO! You know what is a very underdeveloped genre? Oceanic Gothic. You heard me. (There’s The Dead-Tossed Waves, the second in Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth series, which is good, but they’re not in the ocean for that much of the book . . . great title, though.) Anyway, have y’all read either of these? Are they as good as they look?

The Brothers Bishop Bart Yates

Bart Yates, The Brothers Bishop

I love Bart Yates. The Brothers Bishop is about two brothers who are very close but total opposites, forever connected by growing up under the thumb of their terrifying and infuriating father. Serious, misanthropic Nathan likes his privacy in the beach house he inherited. Outgoing golden boy, Tommy, draws people to him without even trying. When Tommy shows up for a weekend visit with his boyfriend and two friends, the brothers revisit family secrets and make catastrophic mistakes, all against the backdrop of the ocean that laps the nearby sand. You can also check out my review of Bart Yates’ first novel, Leave Myself Behind, here.

Scott O'Dell Island of the Blue Dolphins

Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins

12-year-old Karana is left behind on her island home when everyone else is evacuated (omigod, that’s like being stuck in a spaceship floating in space when all the rest of your crew have died, ah!). Karana finds food, makes clothes, tools, and shelter, and actually manages to carve out a life for herself. A childhood favorite of mine.

Francesca Lia Block Nymph

Francesca Lia Block, “Mer,” a short story in Nymph

In “Mer,” an aging surfer is rescued from his lonely life on the beach one morning by a wheelchair bound woman who might be a mermaid. Nymph is a collection of 9 short erotic stories that are all a bit oceanic . . .

Moby Dick Herman Melville Loomings

Herman Melville, Moby Dick or, The Whale

YEEEEEESSSSSS! That is all. For your daily dose of the white whale, you can subscribe to the lovely Rena J. Mosteirin on Twitter @WWhaleCrossing. She is tweeting one line of Moby Dick every day until the book is entirely tweeted. She once told me how long that would take (in years) but I’ve blocked it. A daily line of Moby Richard?—yes, please!

Josh Neufeld A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

Josh Neufeld, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

This graphic novel tells the stories of seven New Orleanians before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. A prismatic approach that shows the vastly different experiences of folks throughout New Orleans.

China Miéville The Scar

China Miéville, The Scar

One of my favorite books of all time. Bellis Coldwine, errant linguist, is fleeing home when her ship is besieged by pirates and she is brought to Armada, a floating city constructed of interconnected floating masses that used to be the hulls of ships. Armada is ruled over by The Lovers who have long been masterminding an epic journey about which the motley inhabitants of Armada know little. But what is the mass stirring far beneath the depths of Armada as it moves ineluctably faster through the vast ocean? And what does it want?

Margo Lanagan The Brides of Rollrock Island  Margo Lanagan The Brides of Rollrock Island

Margo Lanagan, The Brides of Rollrock Island

And, just for fun, here’s a sea-drenched book I’m looking forward to, which will be out this January from the author of the wonderful Tender Morsels. From Goodreads:

“On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings–and to catch their wives. The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.”


Blue Crush Kate Bosworth  Blue Crush Kate Bosworth Badass

Blue Crush

Y’all, no irony: Blue Crush is an amazing movie. It has everything that I love about sports movies (personal triumph in the face of adversity, spectacular action shots, the intrusion of a pretty superficial love story into what would otherwise seem like a solipsistic pursuit of personal achievement that humanizes the protagonist enough that we’re routing for her all the more—you know, the usual), only it’s set on the beach and features badass girls who don’t care about school or being clean. Also, did I mention it’s about surfing? Amazing!

Whale Rider

Whale Rider

Beautiful film about an 11-year-old girl who believes it’s her destiny to be chief of the Whangara, even though there has never been a female chief. She trains alongside the boys, hoping her grandfather will see her worth, finally urging a beached whale out to sea with her on its back. Epic.

Point Break Patrick Swayze Keanu Reeves  Point Break Keanu Reeves Patrick Swayze

Point Break

The classic tale of an FBI agent (Keanu “You sayin’ the FBI’s gonna pay me to learn how to surf” Reeves) who goes undercover to catch a group of bank robbing surfers (led by Patrick Swayze)—directed, most importantly, by the awesome Kathryn Bigelow. Presidential masks, surfing, jumping out of planes, and homoeroticism—what more could you possibly want out of your entertainment?

Waterworld  Waterworld


The Polar ice caps have melted and the world is almost entirely under water in this post-apocalyptic delight starring the amazing Dennis Hopper, the un-amazing Kevin Costner and an adorable baby Tina Majorino. It’s pretty awesome.

The Talented Mr. Ripley  The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Based on the (super wonderful) novels of Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by Anthony Minghella, features Tom Ripley, a talented mimic, who tries to insinuate himself into the life of golden boy, Dickie Greenleaf, with whom he falls in love/lust/envy. Set in the Italian Riviera, some major shit goes down asea.

Ondine Colin Farrell  Ondine Colin Farrell


Written and directed by the always-delightful Neil Jordan, Ondine is the story of Syracuse, an Irish fisherman and recovering alcoholic who catches a nearly-drowned woman in his nets. When his ill daughter, Annie, finds out about Ondine, she becomes convinced that Ondine is a selkie—a seal creature turned human on land—and almost has Syracuse believing too, just a little. A really lovely movie about how we make up stories to edit the world into what we want it to be.

Finally: So sue me—I don’t like Jaws. But instead, I shall leave you with a bonus: the video for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”! You’re welcome.

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  1. Margalit

     /  August 24, 2012

    1. Wicked Game: best music video EVER.
    2. Oceanic Gothic? An awesome genre is born!

  1. Oceanic Gothic: Teeth, by Hannah Moskowitz « crunchingsandmunchings
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