Strong Like the Sea by Wendy S. Swore

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Book Review of Strong Like the Sea by Wendy S. Swore

Have you ever been afraid of something? Maybe something that you used to love? Or possibly something that shouldn’t give you anxiety but does? Have you ever let that fear get in the way of living your life? At that point, have you ever thought of the sea? Why is it strong? The waves are strong, the currents are strong, and the pull to the ocean is strong. Strong Like the Sea by Wendy S. Swore may be a cute middle-grader story, but it’s much more than that. It’s a story of overcoming fear and challenges. It’s a story of hard work and determination, and it’s a story of letting go of fear and moving forward.


“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.

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

My Book Review:

First, isn’t the cover art so cute? I love how the turtle represents the o in strong! It’s super cute. Yes, I judge books by their covers, and looking at this one you know it has to be good! Luckily, it is! Yes! I loved this book!

Funny story. There are lots of fun puzzles, riddles, and secret codes in this book that Alex needs to figure out. When I was reading this book, there were two Instagrammers (@the.cline.fam and @onthejohn) from Utah that hid $10,000 somewhere in our mountains (sorry-it’s been found). They put out several clues to help, and they were all secret codes and riddles. As I read about Alex figuring out clues from her mom, a huge chunk of the Utah population was also trying to figure out clues to find this treasure. My girls and I searched a bit but didn’t have any luck. So fun, though!

This book is so fun! It’s very well written. I liked the writing style because it is easy to read, understand, and follow. The characters in this story come to life on the page! I love Alex. She’s complex, real, and her voice makes this story. Her dad and her ohana—the people who love her and with whom she surrounds herself, are also great characters. Even grumpy Uncle Tanaka comes to life in this story.

I love that it’s not just riddles that Alex needs to overcome, it’s also her fears and anxieties. How her mom put together that extravagant hunt amazes me! I wish I could be a cool mom like that! As Alex solves the codes and puzzles, she also learns more about herself and her abilities and strengths. Sometimes she can’t solve the puzzles on her own—she needs the help of friends and family. It’s the same for her fears. Sometimes we need others to help us overcome and see that we can do it!

This book packs a punch! It’s a two-fer! Not only do you have a very fun story, you also have some very real lessons learned. Being in nature may bring out our fears, but it can also heal us. We need family and friends—we need their love, support, friendship, and gentle nudges. It’s ok to be different and unique, in fact, it’s awesome to be you! Things are usually more than meets the eye, especially people. Comparing and judging only brings sadness and pain. You can do hard things!

I might be a mom, but I loved Strong Like the Sea! It’s so cute! Alex is such a fun character. She’s relatable, real, and her voice makes the story. It’s great because the kids will be learning all these great lessons and they won’t even know it! Now, that’s my kind of book! I highly recommend this book!

Content Rating PGContent Rating: PG (There isn’t any violence, “intimacy,” or profanity in this book. There are a few kind of tense parts.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-Graders (4th-6th)+

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 


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A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore The Wish and the Peacock by Wendy S. Swore Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

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