Out of the Blue
By Jason June
Narrated by André Santana and Neo ChiHI
High school breakups, quirky best friends, first true love and merfolk, Out of the Blue drowns you in a whirlwind of emotions from the very beginning to the end, making you want to beg the author for more at the drop of the last word.
Out of the Blue follows Sean, a current lifeguard and an aspiring director for romcoms, after he’s been dumped by his shitty ex, Dominick, who just “wasn’t feeling” the relationship. Oh, and did I mention he breaks up with Sean on his lifeguard duty shift, sending the poor boy into a depressive spiral of heartbreak and wondering what he did wrong. But when a sudden stranger, Ross, washes upon shore and agrees to help Sean win over Dominick, Sean spins up a plot to fake date Ross to make Dominick realize what he’s missing and confess his love to Sean. Things change, however, when it turns out Ross is actually a merfolk who must venture on land for his journey, a journey where he must help a human out, get his journey mark before returning to the sea. Sean finds himself entangled in a romcom not even the most imaginative of directors could’ve come up with.
The slow burn relationship as Sean and Ross discover they’re falling for each other is tender and genuine. Couple that with Ross’ awe at the wonders of the human world captures and pairs well the feeling of first, true genuine love. The love isn’t toxic or rival-like, but between two people who genuinely want to make each other happy, experience each other and learn from each other which will leave readers smiling at every interaction between the two.
At the heart of the novel, however, is the lesson of going with the flow when it comes to love, and the realization that, even if love doesn’t last—or can’t last—one can still find meaning and what we might deserve by being treated as we deserve. As Ross teaches Sean what he deserves not only in love but from himself, Ross learns there’s more to life beyond the ocean, or the Blue as merfolk call it. In a way, there’s a beauty in the fleetingness of life and its experiences, one the book teaches in such a gentle way that I guarantee will have you crying by the end.
Even more so, it was refreshing to see the lead characters, Sean as a chubby, hairy boy and Ross as a nonbinary, genderfluid merfolk. So much of Queer literature is dominated by skinny twinks or chiseled ab jocks that it becomes tiring and even distancing to see the same kinds of people represented over and over and over as you hope the next book might represent a body type like yours. Through representing different bodies and different experiences, Out of the Blue appreciates the differences without fetishization. Instead, the book chooses to explore both lead characters’ bodies in a way that’s wholesome, explorative and connective, something sometimes lacking in Queer romance and even Queer erotica at times.
Out of the Blue has so much more to give than just the romance front and center to the story. A tale of friendship, discovering oneself, the love between a daughter and her mothers, depression, exploration, and wonder all thread beautifully to create the amazingness that is Out of the Blue.
Reviewed by David Valentin
Published by HarperCollins, May 31, 2022