The Sea is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt: A Review

Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation, Depression, Animal Death, Animals Suffering

The Sea is Salt and So Am I follows three teens whose lives are intertwined: Harlow, who wants to save her town and excels at making terrible decisions; Ellis, bisexual runner with a prosthetic foot who just wants to prove himself; Tommy, depressed artist who really just wants everything to end. Ellis and Tommy are twins and Harlow is Ellis’ best friend.

The focal point of this book is the messy relationships between Harlow and the twins. This seems to be a story about how disastrous life is, how even though everything is going wrong, there is always a reason to live. It’s sad, it feels like a book that’s bleeding out in front of you, but it’s still somehow hopeful.

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about The Sea is Salt. I enjoyed it quite more than I thought I would, and found myself enjoy how completely unlikable Harlow was. She irritated me, but in a way that was endearing. I don’t know how to explain it- it was chaotic. I love chaos.

If you are depressed or suicidal, this book is one you might want to wait on. Hartt doesn’t disguise or try to avoid the topic, including a content warning at the beginning for this very reason. It’s an unflinching look at what it means to be suicidal. As someone who has experienced it, I see the reality of it all in Tommy’s inner monologue.

I don’t like the romantic relationships in this book at all. I don’t think many people did- but the point is not, from what I can tell, that any of them are helpful. I partially wish the book would have discussed the codependent nature of Harlow and Ellis, because they really were not healthy in the slightest. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good codependent toxic romance- The Wicker King by K. Ancrum is one of my favorites, for heaven’s sake. It was one of the few parts of the book that was messy in a way that I wish had been more explicitly discussed in a nuanced way. Everything else in the book was nuanced and interesting, so I don’t feel it’s crazy to wish for more nuance in how that relationship is portrayed.

I would recommend this, hands down, if you’re a fan of Sally Rooney. It’s got that vibe of people making poor choices and revealing the true nature of humanity.

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