Size: 304 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Release Date: July 4, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in planned trilogy
Source: ARC from NetGalley.com
Rating: 3/5 stars
I got an advanced reading copy of this book through netgalley.com. I was very excited to read this book about mermaids from debut author Sarah Porter. This is the first in a trilogy (which I didn’t know when I picked it up to read, my bad). After reading it I was bit disappointed in how dark the story was and how abruptly it ended. That being said the writing was beautifully done for the most part.
Luce is fourteen and has had a tough life. Her mother is dead, her dad is missing, and she can never seem to fit in at school. Now she is living with her uncle who beats her when he isn’t busy ignoring her. One night on a cliff in town things get out of hand; her uncle beats her and tries to rape her. Luce escapes but then succumbs to the cold on the side of the cliff. She awakes to find herself in the ocean…she is a mermaid. Now she must navigate mermaid politics and do her best to not completely give in to the urge to sing seafarers to their death.
This is a very, very dark book. I am not sure what age group Porter is aiming for. It seems like a book more appropriate to the older YA crowd, but the main character is only 14 years old. The descriptions never get extremely explicit but there is a lot of abuse, sexual and otherwise in this book. All of the girls that are mermaids become mermaids because of something dark or life threatening happening to them. So, all of the girls have history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Subjects such as rape, suicide are dealt with throughout.
While I enjoyed the fact that mermaid mythology was combined with that of sirens singing seafarers to their death, I was a bit disappointed at Luce’s time with the mermaids. The group of mermaids that she joins is not unlike high school; there is a lot of posturing between the girls, they form cliques, and cat-fight a lot. I felt like the middle of the book was one big cat-fight between Luce and the Queen mermaid and it was somewhat boring. At points the writing style is very beautiful though and you can really feel Luce’s love and wonder for the ocean.
That being said there are some really interesting elements brought into this book. There is the mystery of the larva that are not quite mermaids and the laws the mermaids are supposed to follow (no interaction with humans beyond singing them to death). The implications of these elements could be interesting, but they were not explored at all in this book. In fact the book pretty much leaves everything unresolved and ends right in the middle of a scene.
Overall it was an okay story. The book is beautifully written, incorporates some interesting elements, and I loved reading about mermaids. It is a very dark book though and deals a lot of sexual and physical abuse, which is not my favorite subject to read about. I thought the interaction between the mermaids was shallow and catty, and nothing is resolved in this book…things are only introduced. At this point I am not sure whether or not I will read the next book. This book was pretty depressing and I absolutely hate it when books start a story and end without, well, any sort of actual ending.