by Sarah Porter
I don't like it when mermaids are mean.
This book has beautiful imagery of shimmering fins and tails and mesmerizing siren songs, as well as exciting near-misses with giant orcas. The author writes lovely descriptions that you can easily picture in your mind, and the book description sounds very intriguing--but unfortunately, neither the story nor the characters live up to the pretty words or the pretty cover.
Aside from juvenile dialogue and a slight plot, many elements of this book are actually also quite disturbing. The mermaids come into being as a result of the extraordinarily cruel actions from the humans in their lives, such as attempted rape, "boiling babies," and slavery. These are serious topics that are mentioned in passing but never fully explored, and such casual treatment of such brutal topics seem both jarringly out of place and completely inappropriate in a book like this.
Luce, the 14-year-old main character, is meant to be seen as an admirable, kind heroine, but the anecdotes that demonstrate this aren't very convincing, and Luce herself seems painfully young and easily duped. The other mermaids, whose characters pretty much all blend together, spend their days playing power games and luring innocent people to their deaths just for fun--it's The Little Mermaid + Heathers with a dose of Mean Girls thrown in for good measure. And whether you're on land or in the sea, a story that primarily revolves around teenage back-stabbing and manipulation just isn't all that interesting to read about. I'd love to see another book from this author, as the writing is very beautiful in parts, but one that has a much more well-developed plot and fully fleshed-out characters.
Incidentally, I'm not really sure what the exact differences are between a siren and a mermaid (the quick research I did online seems evenly divided by those who think they are the same beings with different connotations and those who believe they are entirely different creatures), but regardless of what name they go by, the creatures in this particular book are strikingly cruel and immature. And while the sea they're swimming in is extraordinarily pretty, unfortunately it is also very lacking in depth.
Release Date: July 4, 2011
Rated 2 out of 5 stars.
30-second synopsis: a book with beautiful imagery, but filled with senseless cruelty and sadly lacking in plot or character development. An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.