Review: Strong Like the Sea

Title: Strong Like the Sea
Author: Wendy S. Swore
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

Featuring a secret ocean code with a hidden message for YOU to decipher!

Even though twelve-year-old Alexis was born in Hawaii, she won’t surf or swim with her friends—not since the ocean and its hidden creatures swept her out to sea. Instead, she grabs her best detective hat and decodes her mom’s latest challenge

Alex’s mom works in counterintelligence and leaves codes, ciphers, and puzzles behind for Alex to solve, always with a “treasure” at the end. It’s a brilliant game between them, and Alex loves figuring out her mom’s puzzles—especially the tricky ones—but when an emergency at sea puts her mom in possible danger, solving the next one suddenly feels far more urgent.

Friends help as Alex races to decipher each clue before time runs out, but when the trail leads to grumpy old Uncle, his enormous dog Sarge, and a sea turtle unlike any other, the challenge changes into something bigger than any before. With storms on the horizon and lives on the line, Alex must face her fears to solve Mom’s challenge and save those she loves. With her ohana to help, she must be strong like the sea.


Twelve-year-old Alexis was born in Hawaii but she’s scared of the water. Her mom travels with the navy, and she leaves codes and puzzles for Alexis to solve while she’s gone. Alexis has to solve her most difficult puzzle yet. She needs help to solve it, including from her grumpy Uncle. Before she can finish it, her mom goes missing. This becomes Alexis’s most important challenge, as she races to finish it to make her mom proud.

I would have loved this book when I was a kid. I loved puzzles and mystery stories. Alexis had many different types of puzzles to solve, including treasure hunts and codes. These sounded so fun, and may spark an interest in puzzles for young readers.

I loved the island setting. I haven’t been to Hawaii but I definitely want to go after reading this story. There were many Hawaiian terms used throughout the story, but they were either explained in the context of the sentence or in the glossary at the end. Food was an important part of the story as well. Most of it sounded really delicious, except for the stinky fruit they used to make a healing tea. I loved learning about Hawaiian culture in this story.

Strong Like the Sea is a great middle grade novel!

Thank you Shadow Mountain Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

Have you read Strong Like the Sea? What did you think of it?


Author: jilljemmett

Jill lives in Toronto, Canada. She has studied English, Creative Writing, and Publishing. Jill is the creator and content producer of Jill’s Book Blog, where she has published a blog post every day for the last four years, including 5-7 book reviews a week. She can usually be found with her nose in a book.

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