It’s Shark Week 2020! Who’s up for a Ranty review about a romance which also features lots and lots of sharks?
Dr. Grace Mann is known as the “Shark Whisperer.” Sharks love her. And she loves them right back. She wants to protect sharks, and one of the best ways to do so is to keep encounters between humans and sharks to a minimum. And that means a detection system which doesn’t rely on tagging sharks or spotting sharks from overhead.
Underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway has always admired Grace Mann ever since a viral photo of her emerged free diving with a great white shark. He’s wanted to work with her. And now he has his chance. Hired to film a documentary about her testing her new shark detection system at Guadalupe Island in Mexico, they find that not only are the sharks a potential threat, but so are the sparks between them.
Expect all the shark memes in this ranty review.
Because yeah. This rant will also be spread out over several days. Mostly because I am going to get really ranty. You like that kind of thing, I hear.
Let’s dive in.
First off, some info about me, Lark. I love sharks. Anyone who knows me in real life knows I love sharks. It’s a thing. I’m scared to death of them (for a good reason), but I love the shit out of the puppies with sharp pointy teeth. I’ve been super into sharks since I was a child and managed in the space of like 3 days to get scared by 1. Jaws 3 (yes the crappy 3D Jaws), 2. A news report about an diver in Australia who was bitten in half by a Great White Shark, and 3. An article in National Geographic which showed off Rodney Fox’s attack wounds. It was a bit much for kid!me. To combat my fear, I set out to learn as much as I could about sharks without ever meeting them in the wild. I have held true to this despite coming damn close – fuck you Florida! (There’s a story there… I should also point out that cartilaginous fish seem to have it out for me. Specifically rays. I’ve been bitten by one and rays routinely stalk me and try to get me with open mouths when I go to aquariums. I have witnesses. This is not hyperbole.)
So yeah. I know a lot about sharks – likely more than your average lay person but less than any of the actual shark scientists out there. So when I saw a romance which featured a Shark Scientist and an underwater filmmaker I was like “Yes! Please” I should have known it would have been too good to be true.
First off, Grace is not based on any actual marine biologist. She’s based on an Instagrammer and social media influencer Ocean Ramsey. If the name sounds familiar it’s because she took this:
That’s Deep Blue, thought to be the largest Great White Shark living today, and an idiot who had to get a pretty picture of herself riding an apex predator. You can tell Deep Blue is NOT happy about this because her pectoral fins are dipping downward and her mouth is gaping open to show her teeth. Remember that for later. The author didn’t.
Anyway. This Instgrammer, who incidentally also culturally appropriates Black hairstyles when it suits her, got rightfully lambasted by shark researchers and experts around the world. Seriously when David Shiffman head of the twitter account whysharksmatter talks to the Washington post about your inspiration’s antics, you might want to listen.
But this author didn’t. In fact, she cited more inspiration from social media influencers than she did from actual shark experts. This can be seen in the book.
So remember that Viral photo I mentioned in the summary? It’s essentially the same one Ocean Ramsey took. But instead of being an instagrammer who pulls off stunts, it was being done by a marine biologist who should fucking know better!
Don’t ride apex predators, folks. While you’re at it, don’t ride manta rays, plankton feeders, or pretty much any other wild marine animal. But our heroine didn’t get that memo. Because she rides sharks, not once. Not twice. But three times in this book.
I wanted to strangle her.
Touching sharks is prohibited by the Mexican government at Guadalupe Island. But the heroine and the rest of the boat operators don’t seem to give a fuck about what the rules are. They break them constantly. Like seriously. The rules and laws are brought up and then the hero/heroine breaks them on camera.
Because that’s a good idea.
Basically the heroine is Too Stupid To Live. And I do mean this literally. She repeatedly gets herself in situations where she not only endangers her life but the lives of others. At one point she literally blacks out underwater and drowns. I am not making this up. She does it twice. Again not making this up. (I’m going to come back to this.)
When the villain in the novel points this out, that Grace is reckless and endangering others. Everyone says OH NO!!! YOU’RE WRONG, VILLAIN!!!
Except the villain definitely has a point. We’re supposed to sympathize with Grace for wanting to do what’s right, but maybe she should consider that what she thinks is right isn’t the only option.
I got so frustrated at this flagrant disregard for Mexico’s laws. No marine biologist would do this. If they did, they’d never be allowed to come back. It’s that simple. (I hit up my friend who works for NOAA as a Marine Biologist and he basically started screaming No! Like Anakin Skywalker at the end of Revenge of the Sith.) The Mexican government doesn’t play. And the author, assuming she watched the same documentaries I did, should know that.
Worse, no one on any of the boats speaks Spanish. Nor are there any Hispanic characters. And there aren’t any reps of the Mexican government or Mexican scientists represented. Again, this author saw the same documentaries I did and on those there is always a Spanish speaker/Mexican scientist.
This is just the start of the lack of diversity in the cast. There’s one Asian… but she’s portrayed very stereotypically as the quiet Asian nerd. She says things occasionally, but she’s not a big part of the story. (I’ll get into more on the racism in this book later… because of course there’s racism.)
Where was I… oh yeah, Grace.
She’s a menace. An actual menace. Seriously, every time she enters the water she gets brushed, bitten, or out and out attacked by a shark. Yeah… sharks love her… I’m not joking. Each time the characters dive into the ocean as part of the story, the author invariably describes an attack by a Great White Shark. It’s a problem. And it’s not doing much to change the world’s perception regarding sharks. In fact, just like Jaws this book casts sharks in an unfavorable light. And I cannot forgive that.
I think I’m going to stop here for now. This is getting long.
Until Next time! (Continue here for Part Two!)