“The Summer of Chasing Mermaids” by Sarah Ockler (2015)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA, Contemporary Realistic, Romance, Fairytale Retelling, Magic Realism
Page Length: 416 pages (electronic review copy)
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…
Even though I knew The Summer of Chasing Mermaids was a YA novel, it certainly doesn’t feel like one. It gives off a mature vibe rather than some of the previous contemporary I’ve read that turned out to be kind of juvenile. I was absolutely loving the diversity in this story. There used to be a time where there wasn’t too much diversity in YA, but things are staring to change and I’m seeing more of a variety when I’m shopping for books at the store.
Elyse, the main protagonist, cannot physically speak, but her voice is never silenced. She has a huge presence,is free spirit (despite how she sees herself currently), and wants to voice her opinions. She is an admirable character who is strong even though she thinks she’s weak. Elyse works slowly through each day, tries to move on from the accident, and defies the odds by participating in the race (the first female to do so).
Chris looks like a playboy, but is really looking for something more serious in the relationship department, plus he has a soft heart. He cares for his brother, Sebastian deeply (who is the most adorable, earnest kid). He also wants to escape from his father’s hold on him and desperately wants live his own life.
As for the romantic aspects of the novel, the attraction between the two is there at the beginning of the book when Elyse and Christian first meet. Instead of rushing into things they get to really know each other, become friends, and then there is a nice build up to their romantic relationship. They don’t need words to understand each other and they just balance each other out. And they also manage to help each other deal with and overcome their obstacles.
Elyse is far away from her home in Tobago, but she finds family at The Cove through her relatives and friends. I enjoyed the detail used to describe The Cove’s beautiful scenery and I liked their tight-knit community. The whole summer is a process of rehabilitation for Elyse and she wants to start anew.
An added bonus to the story was the mixture of the real world and fantasy. The legend of Atargatis: a powerful, beautiful, and fierce mermaid who rules the sea ties in with Elyse trying to get her voice back (it’s almost got that “The Little Mermaid” vibe, but it’s completely different. Readers will also enjoy Elyse’s lyrical poems which are raw, emotional, heart-wrenching, and powerful.
I love this book! Rather than the typical “happy ever after” feeling that comes with reading contemporary, it just felt like a satisfying read. There were no loose ends, incredible characters, and well-written romance.
About The Author
Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of six young adult novels: Twenty Boy Summer, Fixing Delilah, Bittersweet, The Book of Broken Hearts, #scandal, and The Summer of Chasing Mermaids. Her books have been translated into several languages and have received numerous accolades, including ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Girls’ Life Top 100 Must Reads, Indie Next List, Amazon Top Movers and Shakers, and nominations for YALSA Teens’ Top Ten and NPR’s Top 100 Teen Books. Her short work has appeared in the anthologies Dear Teen Me and Defy the Dark.
She’s a champion cupcake eater, tea drinker, tarot enthusiast, night person, and bookworm. When she’s not writing or reading at home in the Pacific northwest, Sarah enjoys hugging trees and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex. Fans can find her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and at sarahockler.com.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.