Even when surrounded by sisters, Celia and Lo feel alone, until a seaside encounter brings them together in this brooding paranormal romance.
Lo is a relatively young “ocean girl”—she lives underwater and sings, but is never labeled a mermaid or siren—still anchored to her former human life and drawn to the surface world. Unlike her older “sisters,” who drift on the current and ascend to meet their allegedly angelic maker, Lo aims to be cured of her condition by drowning a mortal lover. On land, unlike her seemingly shallow, identical and manipulative triplet sisters, Anne and Jane, Celia Reynolds prefers to ignore her psychic powers and mope along the boardwalk. After Lo and Celia save the hapless, handsome guitarist Jude Wallace from drowning, Celia helps Lo remember her life as Naida Kelly—to everyone’s peril. Parents are conveniently dead or absent, but real-life concerns of rent, school and transportation lend the story an Alice Hoffman–like air of magical realism rather than typical teen paranormal lightness. Ruminations on individuality, identity and memory as well as constant narrative shifts among Celia, Lo and Naida hamper plot progress but impart a dreamy quality. Not a retelling of, but distantly related to Andersen’s "The Little Mermaid."
A tale dark, deep and strong, like the sea.
(Paranormal romance. 12 & up)
Imaginative sea-mythology elements help perk up the formulaic boy-crazy plot in Childs’s bubbly novel. At 17, Thalassinian mermaid Lily has been landlubbing for the last three years at Seaview High School on the Florida coast in an effort to feel more connected to her mother, a “terraped,” who died shortly after Lily’s birth. Now in line for succession to her father’s underwater throne on Thalassinia, Lily first has to “bond” with a life mate before her imminent 18th birthday, yet her unwavering choice, swim-team star Brody Bennett, doesn’t notice her. However, Lily’s annoying, motorcycle-riding next-door neighbor, Quince Fletcher (who can’t even swim), adores her quirkiness, and the novel becomes a rather predicable exercise in convincing the stubborn heroine who’s best for her. Quince indulges in some troubling importunate antics (restraining Lily in the bathroom, waylaying her for a forceful kiss in the library), and Lily is drawn as a vacillating, stomping-around character in transition. Still, details delineating the kingdom of Thalassinia and Lily’s ability to move gracefully between sea and land are nicely inventive and well worth a plunge. (Fantasy/chick-lit. 12 & up)
Another twist on the mermaid theme comes with a hefty dose of romance and a heavier dollop of comedy in this debut.
However, the word “mermaid” just isn’t allowed; call them “Syrena,” instead. Heroine Emma begins the book by failing to save her best friend from a shark attack. After the realistically bloody death, the book doesn’t wait long to plunge into comedy, complete with sitcom-style dialogue, that falls awkwardly flat at first. Banks works out some of the kinks in the humor as the book proceeds, and readers should get a kick out of it. Emma literally crashes into Syrena royal Galen, with whom she will become romantically entangled, and then not, in standard oh-no-will-they-ever-get-together style. Both appealing characters, they find themselves irresistibly attracted to each other, although they often argue. Emma overcomes her shock when she learns that Galen is a sea creature but must then learn that she, too, has paranormal powers in the sea. The author juxtaposes her brisk comedy against more serious, but still mild suspense that tends to fade into the background. The narrative shifts between Emma's first-person and Galen's third-person perspectives, a mixture that doesn’t quite jell. Best read for the comedy, then. A sequel appears probable.
Entertaining for readers riding the wave of mermaid fantasies.
(Paranormal romance. 12 & up)
Vanessa and her family have been in their summer home on the Maine coast less than 24 hours when her sister Justine, an unlikely candidate for suicide, jumps off a cliff. Then dozens of other drowning victims start washing ashore. As Vanessa tries to make sense of the deaths with the help of her next-door neighbors, the smart and sensitive Carmichael brothers, the investigation gets them entangled with a local family of bewitchingly beautiful—and dangerous—women. Rayburn combines a classic murder mystery with elements of paranormal romance. The story’s momentum builds at a glacial pace; crucial details of narrative and character development are revealed so slowly that what might have been suspenseful is sometimes just befuddling. The plan that Vanessa and her friends hatch to solve the problems plaguing Winter Harbor tests the bounds of credulity, but the novel’s last page is the most compelling and lays the groundwork for the planned series to continue. Readers who see the tale through to its denouement will find their patience rewarded with an intriguing twist. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)
Sirena and her sisters are hybrids (half-human, half-fish), or mermaids, yearning for the touch and love of men, who will thereby bring them immortality. When ships pass on their way to battle in Troy, the mermaid sisters lure the warriors with their songs. Sirena soon realizes that their calls lead many men to their deaths (there is no fresh water for the men, or they drown, etc.); this knowledge so devastates her that she banishes herself to life alone, and without songs, on the island of Lemnos. To her lonely home comes Philoctetes, abandoned by his shipmates after he was bitten by a serpent. Sirena is drawn to him, but afraid for him at the same time’she does not want him to suffer the same fate as the men before him. Slowly, Napoli unfurls a glorious story of love, as Sirena reaches immortality while understanding the consequences of her love and exploring brand new feelings such as desertion, desperation, and jealousy. The sensual narrative celebrates land and sea with stinging detail—from Sirena’s intense love and physical longing to her quiet, clever island survival with Philoctetes. Fans of Greek mythology will enjoy several tales of gods, warriors, and nymphs woven throughout, but it’s the timeless, entrancing love story—the heartache, the triumph, and the bittersweet ending—that grabs the heartstrings. (Fiction. 12-15)
Among the recent spate of mermaid books this easily stands as the darkest, even though romance remains the main thrust of the story.
Tempest, aptly named, must choose between life on land or in the sea when she turns 17. As seems usual in these stories, her mother was a mermaid who has returned to the ocean. Tempest experiences stormy emotions and frequent sudden bursts of anger as she faces what may not be a choice after all. If it’s a choice, why has she grown gills on her neck? Tempest is an excellent surfer with a wonderful boyfriend, Mark, but when she meets Kai, a strange new surfer, she feels an instant and strong attraction. Kai turns out to be a sea creature too. He’s trying to protect Tempest from an evil sea witch when lightening nearly kills him. To save his life, Tempest drags him to the sea then plunges into the ocean to follow when other creatures swim away with him. She swims to a magical kingdom where she and Kai do battle with the witch and find her mother. Deebs dispenses with the suspenseful battle quickly and returns to the romance, described in an increasingly Harlequin-esque style, and adds an intriguing, possibly sequel-ready, ending.
An exciting-enough story, seriously overdone, which many young readers will love.
(Fantasy romance. 12 & up)
Sixteen-year-old Lena becomes angry when her father won’t let her learn to surf in this new supernatural romance. Lena is powerfully attracted to the sea, so she decides to defy her dad. She’s sure she saw a mermaid in the surf off her California beach home and wants to get closer to the creature. Lena will find out more than she could have known about herself and the mermaid when she finds a magic mirror, hidden by her dad, that shows Lena scenes so compelling that she can’t resist running to the sea. It seems that the mermaid wants Lena. Readers will need to decide if the mermaid’s hold on Lena is beneficial or not when the story turns to complete fantasy as Lena begins a new life under the sea. Madigan captures Lena’s adolescent angst extremely well when the girl makes some risky decisions, and she follows her character’s deepening comprehension of her circumstances as she finds love with a handsome merman. The story accurately portrays California’s surfing culture, which makes the fantasy believable. Poignant entertainment. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
Tristan Hart “was born at sea.” It’s no wonder he is the star of the high-school swim team and a Coney Island lifeguard. But while Tristan always prided himself on swimming like a fish, he never imagined he’d become one. When a rescue attempt in stormy seas nearly robs Tristan of his life and leaves him with some unexpected physical side effects, the truth shakes Tristan to the very last scale of his newly sprouted fishtail. Son of a human father and a mother whose distress over their son’s transformation never feels truly genuine, Tristan discovers he is heir to the Sea King’s throne and must compete in a tournament to lay claim to the kingdom. With his best friend and secret love, Layla, and his mer-guardians, Kurt and Thalia, by his side, Tristan battles creatures from the deep on land, at sea and in his own mind. Herein lies one of the novel's greatest problems. Despite the alluring title, the creatures in this story, with the exception of one particularly scary excommunicated mermaid, simply aren’t that vicious. In fact, their descriptions—like the small, round half-man, half–blow fish—seem more suited to one of the original Star Wars movies than contemporary teen fiction.
Neither vicious nor deep, the novel is mildly entertaining and will likely appeal most to dedicated mer-fans.
(Paranormal romance. 14 & up)
In self-publishing phenom Hocking’s (Ascend, 2012) disappointing foray into new paranormal territory, one night of partying on the beach leaves 16-year-old Gemma with more than a hangover.
When the initial fog of her late night at the cove with a trio of sirens (more frequently, and unimaginatively, referred to as “weird pretty girls”) wears off, Gemma discovers that she is stronger, faster and more beautiful than ever. (Readers might have found this transformation more compelling if Gemma weren’t already strong and beautiful, also graceful and endowed with honey-colored eyes.) Now she just has to choose between the life she loves and the lure of her newfound mythical powers. The question is, will readers care? The “should I stay or should I go” tension at the heart of the story would be a lot more effective if the ties that bind Gemma's broken family together were more fully developed. Her father is practically nonexistent. Her mother, mentally impaired and incapable of taking care of anyone, including herself, lives in an assisted-care facility. The only constant is Gemma’s older sister Harper, whose need to look out for her feels more like an obsessive yearning for control than real emotion. In the end, it’s secondary characters, like the girls’ love interests, who will sustain readers determined to make it to the final page.
Whether they'll feel motivated to pick up the next three books is anyone's guess.
(Paranormal romance. 14-18)
A girl runs afoul of the wicked sea witch but finds love with one of her minions in this new take on the mermaid theme.
Miranda lives with her wealthy grandmother on a small island off South Carolina. After a beach party, she pilots her boat on a joyride, but a freak storm wrecks the craft, killing four of her friends and putting her boyfriend into a coma. A mysterious boy swims her to safety. Unaccountably, her schoolmates and the adults at her private school all blame her for the accident, despite proof that she wasn’t drinking. Miranda takes refuge on a deserted beach where she meets a boy who suddenly appears there. Christian isn’t actually a merman but a “betwixtman,” living either down below or up above. He is, however, a creature of the sea and, of course, impossibly handsome. The Sea Witch has commanded him to collect Miranda’s soul, but, naturally, he falls in love with the girl and plots to kill the witch instead. Meanwhile the witch appears on land with her own plot to collect Miranda’s soul. Although the concept here seems an original-enough twist on mermaid stories, the execution doesn't stand above the average, and the resolution seems far too easy.
For paranormal-romance addicts only.
(Paranormal romance. 12 & up)