Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Quick Facts
My Rating: 5 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: May 25, 2015

Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Genres: Young adult, contemporary, romance

Elyse and her twin sister, Natalie, began singing together when they were little. Nobody had to ask the sisters what their futures held - it was obvious. But when the sea takes Elyse's voice, her future is ruined. Not wanting to face her immediate family, she moves to the U.S. to live with her aunt in Oregon.

Here she meets Christian, a boy who isn't afraid to ask questions. After finding Elyse on his boat, he takes an interest in her. And when his father makes a bet, risking his family's summer home and her Aunt Lemon's rented house, the two become even closer. Elyse has to help Christian get his boat ready to race - because if he loses, they both lose their homes in Atargatis Cove.

I went into this with false expectations that, admittedly, I wouldn't have hoped for if I read the book's summary. I expected mermaids, due to the title, not a realistic story. And I regret that, because it did slow the book down for me. I had to adjust my expectations to what the book really was.

I've also seen this in a couple of fairytale retelling lists, but I wouldn't go that far - if it's a retelling of The Little Mermaid, it's a loose one. Elyse has many sisters, and loses her voice. There are some repeated names (Ursula, Sebastian). But I think those who go in for a retelling will probably have false expectations.

That said, this book is a new addition to my favorites shelf. It is a fantastic book, with great characters and such a strong, important message. Elyse lost her voice literally, but so many people (her included) suffered from loss of their voice. There was Christian, who couldn't stand up to his father. His little brother Sebastian, whose young voice was too small for most people to consider. Elyse's Aunt Lemon, whose voice went unheard in matters regarding her own home - because she was renting, and the house was not technically her own property.

In the Cove, two men had voices. The mayor, a sexist man who wanted to bring in tourists even if it meant changing the quiet, calm atmosphere of the Cove, and Christian's father. And they used these voices to silence others - most of whom allowed themselves to be silenced.

It's difficult to stand up for something that seems impossible, and I think this book touched on that really well. Nobody saw the point in standing against the people who obviously had more control and, for that reason, their voices went unheard. And Elyse, loud and outgoing as she used to be, had lost her voice - how could she speak up?

One of my favorite parts of the book (and the parts that made me cry more than once) were Elyse's conversations with her Aunt Lemon. She was a fantastic woman, always encouraging Elyse to heal and find her voice again. She let her know that the sea might have taken Elyse's speaking voice, but ultimately it was her own decision to go unheard.

Another important thing was the acceptance in this book. Girls and women were portrayed wonderfully - not one of the characters was a stereotype. (Which meant no 'blonde, jealous ex' that we usually get when the main character falls for a player - you can't imagine how excited I was when I couldn't find her!) Christian did not fall for Elyse for the typical reason, either - not because she 'wasn't like other girls.' Elyse was very much like the other girls in this book, because they were all realistic, well-rounded people.

None of the teens in this book were shamed for having sex, either. Or for not having it. The adults in this book (namely Lemon who, again, was fantastic) handled that well and it was refreshing to see the topic treated as just a normal thing - because that's what it is.

And then we get to Sebastian, Christian's little brother. He had a mermaid obsession that his father, and quite a few others, found issue with. He was told again and again that mermaids 'weren't for boys,' basically, and his persistence - and the support he received from his brother, Elyse, and friends - was so great.

Even the awful characters were human. Even those who made huge mistakes were not shamed for this in the writing, and I liked that even smaller characters had their stories told and personalities shown within the story. It fit well with the message of the book, to speak up and not let yourself be silenced.

Overall, I hope nobody kept reading this in hopes of finding criticism - because while I usually try to share the good and bad parts of a story, I can't find any fault with this one. If I could have left this review at 'perfect book, go buy it!' I would have.


  1. I am someone who is in love with the idea of fairytale retellings and will read every single one I can get my hands on. I like the idea of this being a retelling of the Little Mermaid because that was always one of my favourite reads. But of course, it was going to need to be a loose one to have a vague sense of it being realistic.

    1. Very true - the realism did call for a pretty loose retelling :)

  2. I loved this one. I kind of felt like it had a bit of a magical realism thing going on in a few chapters, which threw me off sometimes because it's a contemporary. But it was just so beautiful. Learning about how Elyse lost her voice broke my heart.

    On a side note, I heard that Ockler is considering a Noah/Kirby story, and I would love love love that. It would be so much fun to go back to the Cove.

    Great review! :)

    1. I agree the magical realism was a bit confusing, just because I wasn't sure about the genre - contemporary or not? Once I was settled into the story, I enjoyed the slight magical aspects though!

      I cried when we found out how she lost her voice. Had to put the book down, LOL

      And I haven't heard about the Noah/Kirby story, but now I want that book SO BAD! I loved the characters so much; it would be nice to learn more about the others - Noah especially. We barely got to see him in this book!