Book Review: You Brought Me the Ocean, by Alex Sanchez and illustrated by Julie Maroh

Review by Sean Cameron Golden

In a queer retelling of Aqualads origin story, Lambda Award-Winning author Alex Sanchez and illustrator Julie Maroh, capture first love through the eyes of a superpowered teen who is wrestling with his new powers and a crush on the swim team captain. Stuck in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Jake dreams of being in the water as he is stuck in one of the only places devoid of water. To complicate the matter, Jake’s best friend Maria won’t stop talking about going to college at University of New Mexico—Oh, and Maria has been crushing hard of Jake for years. But don’t forget the swim team captain, Kenny Liu! What is Jake to do? 

Spinning the tropes of the superhero narrative, Sanchez and Maroh move away from the toxic, hyper-masculine, heteronormative storytelling about male superheroes. Typically, superheros are portrayed as confident, bold, overpowering individuals. In You Brought Me the Ocean Jake is almost the antithesis of that model: a quiet, subdued, nervous, and questioning character. He allows for the reader to emphasize and find companionship as we [Jake and the reader] search for answers into who he is, who his father is, why he has such a strong affinity for water, and if he is going to be Kenny Liu’s boyfriend. On the periphery, Jake has no idea how he is going to tell his mom or his best friend—the one with the secret crush! The story winds through Truth and Consequences, New Mexico up to the pivotal revelation of Jake’s father and why his mom had to hide them in the middle of the desert. 

Following the recent trend in Young Adult literature to feature queer kids of color, DC does a great job of fusing YA queer literature with the superhero phenomenon. You Brought me the Ocean should be included on everyone’s reading list; however, if you are a fan of Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender or On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, what Alex Sanchez and Julie Maroch were able to produce will be particularly compelling. The queer time for queer narratives is now!

You Brought Me The Ocean. (2020). Alex Sanchez and Julie Maroh (illus). DC Comics.

Sean is a current Ph.d student in the C&I department at the U of M, Twin Cities; there, he travels on an astral board as he glides the queer black diaspora collecting the impossible stories (re)searching the emancipation of the Black imagination.   

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