Sunday, July 3, 2011
Harcourt Children's Books, 2011
Source: Received a free ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I had no idea what to expect when starting this book as I had seen very few reviews of it. I was thinking maybe something like The Little Mermaid. I ended up shocked by quite a number of things while reading.
First I was disoriented because it seemed like the book was set in Missouri, which is an odd setting for a mermaid story, but then it is situated in Alaska, which makes much more sense. Second this is a very dark book as girls turn into mermaids due to abusive backgrounds. Neglect, beatings, and rape are some of the circumstances that turn them. Third once they are turned, they reveal in their new powers including a powerful tail and seductive voices that they use to sing ships to their deaths. Fourth the group dynamics. Only girls change because boys die, and like any group there can be trouble with new people; in this case, a lot of trouble. Fifth, the ending, which I will not spoil here, is much more vague than I'm used to in YA. It didn't seem like a cliffhanger; instead it was very ambiguous affording the reader the opportunity to hypothesize various endings. As this is apparently the start of a trilogy, I'm wondering if it will continue with these characters or talk more about mermaids in another place.
Now some of those shocking elements were positive and some were negative. Main character Luce is almost raped by her drunk uncle before she transforms and other abuses are described in detail. While the first half is pretty steady on the group dynamics, it is the arrival of some new mermaids who shake up the group with extensive conniving and manipulation; it's really cruel stuff although fascinating. I also felt that it took a little long to get to that point. A negative would be how the girls revel in luring humans to their deaths, which I thought could have been dealt with more. Luce is uncomfortable but all of the other girls are delighted to punish the humans who either hurt or ignored their pain during their human lives.
But for me, the biggest positive was the beautiful writing with breath-taking descriptions that brought me deep into the story. I don't usually pay much attention to writing so long as it's competent but this blew past my expectations to weave a gorgeous magical world.
Overall: Beautiful writing if somewhat meandering; a conclusive ending would have pleased me more.
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