The true power of this novel is in the young woman’s narration. She is not a victim. She is never passive. Her sexual desires are bold and sharp. In an exceptionally singular voice, she dreams vividly of what she wants ... It’s hard to imagine that a book so brief could tackle the Iraq war, grief over the loss of a parent, the longing for freedom, an enthrallment with the ocean, loneliness, sexual awakening, faith, and etymology, all in less than 200 pages, but Samantha Hunt has done it, and done it well. The conciseness of the novel is part of what makes it so artful ... We root for her [the narrator], and wish—up until the very last page—that she will grow a tail and escape into the ocean.
Hunt...is a ferally inventive writer about female sexuality, and The Seas is a book about a girl growing into her body and all the suffering that comes with it. Under the surface, however, this book is slipperier—and in some ways more subversive—than the viral fiction of the #MeToo era, which delivers cathartic affirmations that things are just as bad as we always suspected ... Hunt’s work, on the other hand, has an otherworldliness not easily translated into social critique ... The Seas is not a book about confronting the distortions imposed on teenage girls, and its narrator doesn’t stand to gain much from the truth. Instead, she dives deeper into the warped stories we tell about female sexuality, discovering unmappable hungers and powers—ones so violent yet familiar that they send shivers down the spine.
Hunt’s fevered, reality-bending first novel is clearly inspired by the 1811 German novel Undine, about a female water spirit who falls in love with a mortal knight ... will she kill her knight with a kiss? Some readers, overburdened by obscure symbols and narrative ambiguity, won’t care. Others, however, will enjoy this fusion of fiction and folklore that is illuminated by flashes of quite fine writing.