A unique combination of mermaid myth and realistic childhood portrait that has a power of story far outweighing its weak writing.
Twelve-year-old Marian lives on a cliff next to the ocean, but her mother has never allowed her to go into the water due to Marian's unusual health problem: Every few years she comes down with an undiagnosable illness in which her bones ache, her lungs fill with fluid, and her body temperature drops 17 degrees. Each time, baffled doctors proclaim she's dying, only to see her recover within days. One night Marian wanders out of her bedroom and down the cliff to the ocean. Stripping off her nightgown, she plunges into the sea, diving, whirling–and communicating with ocean creatures. Has she turned into a fish? A mermaid? Has she always been a mermaid? (One pretty good hint: syndactylism, i.e., webbed toes, a physical trait she shares with her grandmother.) At 17, Marian approaches a kind of critical crossroads: Is her illness slowly ending her life, or is she just "swimming away"? Perspective jumps around, and the editing is sloppy, but the mythic aspect of the story goes a long way toward saving the narrative. When Marian flies to Alaska to help with a marine animal rescue, she clearly won't be returning to California–or dry land at all. The depiction of Marian's final transformation into sea-life feels too easy, but the end result is mystical and satisfying.
Editorial deficiencies aside, this myth-novel will pull readers along with its entrancing story and, in the right hands, could have strong film potential.