Cover Image: In the Shallows

In the Shallows

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Member Reviews

“I’m every mistake I’ve made. Every scar I’ve earned. I’m in the songs I listen to on repeat, the clothes I’m not brave enough to wear and the sentences I underline in books… I’m all the things I’m too scared to say out loud. I’m every hope. Every fear. Every wild thought that makes me weak and woozy with the promise of something else, something beyond me, beyond the borders of photographs and my parents stories and this tiny corner of the universe that I tread.”

This book is full of such sweet quotes.. God, I forget how much I love YA books.
It took me a little while to get into the book, but the plot itself was pretty solid and with an ‘Everything, Everything’ link, which is a personal fave YA book. The pace really picked up after Nico’s injury, and that was when I became more interested. Mara’s friends and family were all super supportive for the most part. I particularly loved the relationship between Mara and her bestie.
Nico is kind of a horrible person, and I understand the plot provides a backstory to this, but I feel like it isn’t enough to justify her actions enough for me? Mara is experiencing her first crush and relationship here. Despite her friends telling her that she is being mistreated, and seeming to know it herself in the way she is ashamed of talking about it, Mara continues to try with Nico anyway.
The pace and plot were good, I was interested in where the characters would end up. I just feel like there was something missing from this book, but I can’t put my finger on what?? Perhaps I just feel that way because its YA tho!!
Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC 😄

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I love Tanya Byrne and her writing so so much. Sapphic stories will always have my heart and this one is so. I cant think of the right word. I don’t often read first person but for tanya?? anything.

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I really wanted to like this, but it just didn't work for me. I really didn't like any of the characters - the main character, Mara, is very annoying and just completely obsessed with Nico, and yet Nico was completely awful to her! I couldn't understand why Mara would like Nico so much, nor was it ever really explained why Nico was so awful. All of the side characters as well felt like the EXACT same person, I genuinely could not tell a single one of them apart. The timeline would also kind of jump around without any explanation, and it just felt like the story never really led anywhere in the end.

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After reading Afterlove, I was excited to find out that Tanya Byrne was releasing another novel.
They have, yet again, written some compelling characters that continually keep you intertwined with their relationship and their story.
Seeing the importance and innocence of second chances makes this book all the more charming.
From an on and off again relationship to a more honest demonstration of duty and care was phenomenal, and emotional to say the least.
What a ride, and one I’m glad I go onto.
If you haven’t read this then read it!

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Tanya Byrne has created a beautiful sapphic mystery that will make you tense, nervous but will also fill your heart with joy.

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In The Shallows is a hauntingly beautiful mystery at sea following Nicoletta, a teenage girl found and pulled out of the sea by unsuspecting fishermen with absolutely no recollection of who she is, what she was doing or how she ended up in the position that she had now found herself in.

Her sole focus, her new life purpose, suddenly became all about remembering; who she was, where she came from, the people that loved her and, most importantly, what happened to her that wound up with her in the sea to be found in the way that she was all while coping with the fact that her and her story had suddenly gone viral. She was now a hot topic of conversation, and was faced with questions that she had absolutely zero answers to.

A year and a half later, as Nicoletta continues to work on her quest of remembrance, she meets Mara, a girl that treats Nicoletta just like anyone else, and their relationship quickly develops into a beautiful friendship, a source of normalcy for the girl with no memory, and as their relationship grows, feelings begin to change from platonic to something far least for Mara.

Nicoletta's focus remains locked on remembering anything and everything about the life that she once had, but could it be that there's a reason that she no longer remembers anything?

Is her brain protecting her from something far too sinister for her to remember?

I was, and still remain, a massive fan of Tanya Byrne's debut novel Afterlove. It was one of the very few books that I preordered, and have since sent it to several friends as gifts and I'm constantly recommending it to so many people even still a couple of years post publication, so getting approved for this e-ARC felt like and was a huge win for me.

Because of just how much I adored Afterlove, Byrne's sophomore novel had a lot to live up to, and I'm so glad to say that it far exceeded my expectations.

There are so many wonderful and beautiful things to look for and look forward to seeing within this new world that Byrne has created with In The Shallows; the relationships, the characters, their stories, the inner workings of their minds.

Some books fail to capture just the essence of wonder that should always come with reading any new book, but Tanya Byrne has yet to do just that, and I truly cannot wait to see what comes next from this incredible author.

5/5 stars 🌟

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I haven’t read Afterlove yet, but I will be picking it up asap after reading this beautiful story. It was such an emotional and thought provoking book.

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Tanya Byrne has done it again, making me absolutely SOB my eyes out while reading the beauty and devastation that occurs throughout this book.

This is definitely going to be a favourite book of 2024 for me!!

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Tanya Byrne has the knack of writing fantastic books. I don’t think I’ve read a single one from her that I’ve disliked. This one hooked me from the first line. It was interesting to hear Mara talk about the relationship after it happened and looking back on it.

My favourite thing about this book though was one of the side characters, Erin. Erin is very casually trans. It’s not a big part of the book, it’s not something that’s massively signposted, it’s just treated as a perfectly normal part of her character. Which is how things should be! We should be able to have trans characters who are just existing in the background not being a big deal as much as we should have trans characters who are the main character and sharing their story. Having this treated so casually made my heart sing.

I loved the dynamic between all the characters too. It was good to see a relationship that wasn’t perfect and seeing how things played out. I also loved the interactions between the friend group and how they reacted to Nico.

If you haven’t read a Tanya Byrne book before, here or Afterlove is a good place to start. If you’re a returning reader, you’re in for a treat!

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Mild spoilers!

Thanks to Netgalley and Hodder Children's Books for this e-ARC.

Nico and Mara have had an on-again off-again relationship for six months now, but Mara just can't give up on their relationship even if Nico doesn't seem as invested as her. Then a girl is pulled from the sea and she doesn't remember anything. It's Nico.

I really enjoyed this story of second chances. I was Nico's biggest critic at first. We've all got that ex who we were obsessed with, would literally die for, that didn't seem to care about us at all. I really wanted to give Mara a shake and tell her how much better she could do! I completely agreed with her friends (who were absolute gems). But then Mara met Nico again after her near-drowning, and this Nico was completely different. Without her memories, she was sweet, cheeky, innocent and she got nervous when she asked Mara for coffee. It was so adorable to see how much Nico genuinely cared about Mara that I completely changed my opinion on her. I devoured the rest of the book and wow, I saw the twist coming but it was insane none the less.

Definitely recommend this one for amazing friends, cute second chances and being in the now!

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This. BOOK. Probably the closest to five stars I'll ever give any romance book (though I'm knocking off a few quarter-stars for reasons I'll soon clarify).

I wasn't expecting to like this book. Honestly, I was kind of expecting to hate it. I wasn't a big fan of 'Afterlove', which simply felt like it hadn't quite found its genre, or landed right in the marketplace. The mix of paranormal aspects and relatable teenager-y love didn't gel well, and, like a lot of reviews stated, the whole being-dead thing felt like an excerpt of bad fanfiction inserted into the actual novel. I was really hoping this book wouldn't be similar - and it wasn't.

Instead, the romance was blended with mystery... and while this aspect could've been a teensy bit stronger, I absolutely loved it.

The book follows Mara, our protagonist. She's fifteen and insecure and a bookworm, reminding me a lot of how I was at that age. An introvert, floating through life with a book in my hand and a head full of dreams, hoping the tidal wave of first love would pick me up and take me with it. And then she meets Nico. Nico is flaky, unreliable, emotionally-unavailable and slightly cold, but Mara is besotted. She keeps excusing Nico's behaviour, much to the annoyance of her colourful group of friends. But when Nico asks to meet Mara on a park bench to bring in the new year, she never shows.

Mara is convinced she's been dumped, and, the next day, sees on the news that a teenage girl has been pulled out of the sea. The next time she sees Nico, it's clear that Nico has lost any memory of life before the ocean... but why, and how did she end up there in the first place?

I really wasn't sure how our faith in Nico could ever be restored, when I first started to read the book. You're meant to think she's an awful person, because you're rooting for Mara so much. The mystery element does work; it's a little slow compared to the romance running through the novel, but it subverts your expectations, while not being entirely unpredictable or unbelievable. I started to get an inkling as to what was going on with Nico's family, but could see that Mara was in denial, and wouldn't have faced up to the truth by herself.

The thing I loved most about the book was the writing itself, however. A step up from her first book, it was deliciously descriptive and warm, and I highlighted so many quotes on my kindle; I'm excited to buy a copy when it comes out, just so I can share them. There were so many lines which really struck me, and Brighton became a living, breathing character in the story. I loved the pop culture references and specific locations mentioned in the book, because even though I've never been more south than Norfolk, the book made me feel like I had.

I also loved the characters. Mara's friends - Michelle, May, Erin and Louise - were warm and comforting and lovely, and not without their flaws. I love seeing strong female friendships presented in YA, especially when such friendships stand alone from the romance. We knew the girls would be there for Mara no matter what happened with Nico.

And here we are... I only had qualms with a few aspects of the book, but it wouldn't be an honest review if I didn't mention them.

This book was long. I guess I'll know long when I get the paperback, but I was reading for a very long time, and although I couldn't put it down and woke up eager to read with my morning coffee, I do feel like it could've been shorter. I'm a self-published author, so pages cost me, and if I was editing this book I think I could've cut so many scenes. I loved the strong description and how fully fleshed all of the characters were, but there were a few conversations or moments which either went on too long, or could have been omitted entirely, because they didn't add anything to the plot, to the character development... to anything, really.

Another slight issue I had with the book was its attempt to be progressive, which in some areas fell flat. I understand the point Byrne was trying to make by not assuming pronouns before being told them outright, but sometimes this meant certain scenes were hard to fully picture and interactions felt forced, specifically the moment in the café with the very rude customer, which felt very jarring and out of place. I feel like there could've been a better way for this to play out, if that was her intention, but I may be wrong.

Along the same lines, the inclusion of a trans character as on of Mara's supposed best friends was, in my opinion, done slightly poorly. Without spoiling who this character was, her trans identity was only revealed towards the end of the book, in one single sentence. I think this was the reason we never really got to see how the five girls became so close, and why her character wasn't explored as much as the other girls'. Mara talked about her other friends coming out or going through major life struggles, and this particular character's life was never highlighted or addressed... or even really mentioned. And when the girls are all just fifteen in the book - and being trans was no doubt a major part of the character's identity - it felt like she wasn't done justice by including the fact she was trans like it was a personality trait, not a lifelong struggle.

This review was long, so I'm sorry about that. I stayed up late planning what I was going to say, and how. But I do think this book is a masterpiece, one which will stay in my head for a very long time. Please read it. Please bask in the gorgeous descriptions and the really beautiful exploration of first love, and of friendship. Don't expect something fast-paced or thrilling... but expect intrigue, and all of the feels.

As always, thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this.

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A YA mystery following two girls - Mara and Nico - who try to figure out the mystery of a sea Nico has been pulled out of.
There were parts I enjoyed during my read of this book. The teenage love felt equal parts angsty and messy (being the perfect description of what teenage love feels like). The writing made me feel like I could picture everything like I was watching a film rather than reading a book. Our characters had their own struggles to deal with that had me interested in their arcs.
However it was a bit of a slow burner for me in that it took me to after the 50% mark to really feel like I cared about how the story ends. If I put the book down before that point I don't think I'd have been itching to know what happens.
I loved the characters and their complicated relationship but the plot is where this one felt a bit underwhelming for me.

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Thank you to NetGalley for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I really wanted to love this and it was a good idea, but it was executed terribly with 2D characters that were there to tick boxes and serve no real purpose.

No one was likeable, not even Mara’s parents who are constantly stressed as so great and cool and chill and loveable. Many of the interactions didn’t feel ~real and the characters’ dialogue occasionally felt like ChatGPT had been asked to write it. Speaking of the characters, every single one of them could have been 14 or 64 as they were all written in the exact same way.

Also the constant pop culture references felt shoehorned in, giving a ‘how do you do fellow kids?’ vibe.

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Mara Malakar’s relationship with Nico is… complicated to say the least. They’ve kissed, but never held hands. Mara knows Nico’s age, but not her birthday. She’s never met Nico’s friends but Nico’s met Mara’s. And lately, Nico has been pulling away from her, the gaps between messages and calls lengthening.

Mara’s best friend Michelle wants her to cut Nico out of her life completely. But when Nico invites Mara to meet her on New Year’s Eve, Mara can’t resist… only for Nico to then ghost her and dump her by text.

But then Mara sees the report on TV. A girl has been rescued from the sea on New Year’s Day. It’s Nico. And, as it turns out, she has no memory of what she was doing that night or who she is.

After a chance meeting, Mara and Nico grow close again. But while Nico still has no memory of Mara, or who she was before her accident, Mara is caught between helping Nico remember the past, or focusing on the present.

There was a lot I really enjoyed in this book. Mara’s experience of teenage love and all the messy emotions that go along with it were well-presented with a relatable, realistic level of teenage angst that we’ve all felt. Some of the standout passages for me were Mara’s attempts to “return to normal” after Nico. Anyone who’s ever suffered a breakup will see a lot of themselves and their emotions in Mara and it was deeply relatable. The prose was a real strength, with beautiful imagery that got right under your skin in the best of ways. Most of the characters were bright and lively and I had particular fondness for Mara and her diverse cast of friends - I would have loved a friend group like them - and her parents.

The mystery element of the story was a bit gentler than I expected, but was compelling towards the end of the book in particular. I had made some guesses that turned out to be correct but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story at all and I raced to the end to see how everything would resolve.

There were a couple of things I wasn’t as keen on, however. I feel like I had a different expectation of the book based on how the blurb presented it, and some elements that I expected to be more prominent were glossed over or absent altogether. This isn’t a detriment to the book at all as I enjoyed the story I got but it was a bit jarring and had me feeling a bit mixed up at times, especially in the earlier chapters.

The beginning of the novel I also felt was a bit slow-paced and dragged on a wee bit. For me, there was a lot of backstory embedded in the earlier chapters which took me a while to parse through. At times there was a lot going on with lots of different secondary characters which again, slowed me down when I was more invested in Mara’s internal dilemmas and what happened to Nico.

Overall, there was a lot I enjoyed here. The romance was messy and complex and wonderful in equal manner, Mara’s internal dilemma about telling Nico about their past relationship was compelling, and the emotion from the passages focusing on Mara’s attempts to move on will stay with me for a long time.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4. Thank you to Netgally for providing an e-arc.

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dnf at 20%. i always feel terrible dnfing (especially an arc), but i don’t want to read the whole thing & then end up giving it a terrible rating because i forced myself to finish it. the premise is so interesting, & the bare bones of the story is intriguing, but there is just so much exposition! it feels very overwritten & like the same things are being said slightly differently over and over again every few pages, but then some things are left completely unexplained. i love the lyrical writing style, but i feel like its a little over the top at times to where it feels forced. i’m disappointed because i was so excited for this & the promise of a sapphic romance with weird ocean mysteriousness is so interesting but i just can’t get into it :/
i won’t post this review to goodreads etc as i usually don’t review dnfs & i don’t want to give it hate when it has a lot of potential & im sure other people will love it

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In the Shallows is a brilliant and beautiful book.

Our main character, Mara, is constantly giving her on-off girlfriend Nico chances to break her heart, and Nico keeps letting her down. Mara is convinced that they are meant to be and won't stop fighting for Nico.

Mara has brilliant friends who look out for her and really want her to be happy, but also only see the negatives in her relationship with Nico.

When Nico is recovered from the sea on New Year's Day she knows nothing about herself, and this gives Mara the perfect second chance.

I loved the way this mystery unravelled and we learnt more about Nico and Mara.

It's a stunningly written, heart wrenching read and I definitely recommend it.

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Tanya Byrne's writing is so beautiful and atmospheric. I love the way she writes about family and friendship. This was slower-paced and more introspective than other YA books I've been reading lately, which I personally enjoyed. The reveal/ending weren't quite what I was expecting, but overall, an immersive and thought-provoking story.

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