I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Also by this author: Bittersweet, The Book of Broken Hearts
Published by Simon & Schuster on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fairytale/Retelling, Love & Romance, Mermaids, Young Adult
Pages: 416 •Format: ARC •Source: Publisher
From the bestselling author of Twenty Boy Summer, a talented singer loses her ability to speak after a tragic accident, leading her to a postcard-perfect seaside town to find romance.The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak. Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: an ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one. Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother, Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life. When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them…
*Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy!
I love fairytale retellings and adaptations, so when I discovered that The Summer of Chasing Mermaids was a contemporary story influenced by The Little Mermaid, I knew I had to read it. Contemporary novels that take influence from myths and legends are often so creative, and I deeply admire Sarah Ockler’s talent at weaving in influences of the famous tale into a beautiful and emotional contemporary novel.
This book had a lot more depth than I was expecting. At first glance it may seem like a fluffy, beach read but there were so many heavy themes going on in this book, especially in regards to diversity. Elyse, the main character, is from Tabago and moves to Oregon, amongst a lot of All-American types. It was so interesting to read a main character who was not only diverse in place of origin, but also in culture; I thoroughly enjoyed Elye’s descriptions of her family’s cocoa farm in Tobago and her different outlook on life compared to that of the predominantly American cast. Yet Elyse never felt “Othered” by her differences, rather they added a beautiful layer to the story as glimpses of her culture were explored. The novel also tackles gender issues, as several of the younger characters are discouraged by adults to participate in certain activities because it’s “simply not done” or “against the rules” for a certain gender to participate. I wasn’t expecting the book to focus so heavily on deconstructing gender roles and it was a really pleasant surprise. Ockler made me really emotionally engaged with the characters who were struggling against such rigid roles.
I was also surprised by touches of magical realism in this book, which mainly stem from Elyse’s relationship with the ocean, and the myths of mermaids in Atargis Cove. The beautiful prose style wove in fantastical scenes with the contemporary narration, illustrating a stunning visual of Elyse’s conflict with the ocean and her journey of coming to terms with it. The mermaid imagery was eerie and stunning as well. The only downside was that at time the prose became a bit too lyrical for me and I found the story to start dragging, wanting to exchange such character introspection for a faster paced plot.
The Little Mermaid elements were very fun to spot and subtle so that they didn’t overwhelm the story. (For instance, there’s a character named Sebastian, Elyse has a natural affinity for music and has many sisters, etc.)
Unfortunately though, not all of the elements of the story worked for me. While I loved the setting and beautiful prose, the plot sometimes dragged. I felt like I never fully connected with Elyse, and I started to lose interest as the book went on, especially in regards to fixing up the boat for the pirate regatta and Elyse’s angst over returning to the water. There were elements of magic in the story that I wish were more fully explained, such as Lemon’s coven that practiced magic (I would’ve loved to know more about how she practiced, aside from just reading tarot). I was pretty shocked at the end when the full story behind the accident that robbed Elyse of her voice was finally revealed, but I wish I had received more closure about the future of Atargis cove.
Overall: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is a beautifully written novel that is very creatively influenced by The Little Mermaid. The imagery and setting were breathtaking, the touches of magical realism were unexpected yet stunning, and the secondary characters felt warm and well-rounded (I particularly loved Christian and Vanessa). However, the plot at times was slow and my interest ebbed at certain parts, and I found myself at times preferring the secondary characters over Elyse. This is a solid novel with progressive themes and beautiful writing, and fans of The Little Mermaid and heavier contemporaries will definitely appreciate it.
Read & Reviewed By The Same Author:
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Fairytale Retelling Challenge
- Goodreads Challenge