A new student at Mermaid School is bullied.
Marnie’s levelheaded mother assures her Mermaid School’s lovely while Christabel, her vivacious celebrity aunt, recalls getting into loads of trouble—mostly earned, as she was a rule-averse prankster. In an often seen trope, Marnie’s first encounter with a fellow student is with bully Orla. The teachers, remembering the chaos Christabel left in her wake, aren’t inclined to give Marnie the benefit of the doubt when she falls victim to someone else’s prank—obviously Orla’s. But when Orla’s meanness is noticed by other students, who then shun her, Marnie sympathizes with her, learning the rather convoluted root of Orla’s hostility. Evidently Christabel promised to play Orla’s sister’s song on the radio but didn’t, depriving Orla’s sister of a showbiz career and forcing her to go and work in the dangerous Gulf of Mexico, where she’s gone missing after a hurricane. Following formula to a T, Orla runs off and gets in trouble, and Marnie follows after to save her, and then everyone becomes friends. From a character-development standpoint, Marnie’s goodness is undermined by her lack of personality. Marnie, her family, her best friend, and Orla are white; mermaids of color are present as second-tier characters. Readers who notice a throwaway line about Marnie’s absentee father’s career mining natural gas may hope for further exploration in sequels.
Unless mermaids really float your boat, toss this one back out to sea. (Fantasy. 7-11)