The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler was a) my first read by this author, b) one of my new favourite contemporaries of 2016, and c) an entirely adorable sea cucumber of goodness. I so thoroughly approve of this book! It had everything a summery contemporary needs: excellent characters; lots of boating and beachy scenes; teenagers eating half a universe worth of seafood; and people standing up for what they believe in and using their voice.
I absolutely loved the theme of “use your voice”. Especially since the narrator, Elyse, was mute after an accident. But the book just went onto to underline and prove that there are SO MANY WAYS of speaking up for yourself. And no one ever deserves to be voiceless.
Also this is a modernised retelling of The Little Mermaid! HOW COOL IS THAT, RIGHT?! I’m such a huge fan of retellings and I particularly love this kind — it can stand on its own, or you can look for the little nods to the original. (Like Elyse’s aunt was named Ursula and the love-interest’s little brother was Sebastian. I love it!)
It absolutely wins for the diversity representation too!! Elyse is from Trinidad & Tobago and mute. Also her cousin is half T&T. It’s so refreshing to have characters of colour and books that discuss physical disabilities. HUZZAH. MORE OF IT.
There’s a definite air of mystery about the “accident” too. Since Elyse WILL NOT GIVE DETAILS. I busted half and eyebrow wondering. All we get to know is that a) Elyse nearly drowned, b) she lost her voice forever, and c) it involves her sister which is why Elyse has left T&T and is living with her aunt in the USA. I want aaaaanswers. (Also the reveal was pretty devastating and gloriously written.)
Plus the book discussed equality. Which fills me with GREAT JOY because equality is a big deal and I loved the theme of “speaking up for yourself and others who can’t”. Like Elyse faced prejudice for wanting to sail in the “boys’ pirate regatta”. Sebastian (the love interest’s little 6-year-old brother) wanted to march in the “girls’ mermaid parade”. And the adults were so condescending about refuting them. AGH. It made me so proud to see the teens of the story just PUNCH those rules and keep speaking up for equality. Even if they couldn’t actually speak.
I also really adored Elyse as a character. There’s still plenty of dialogue, of course, and she communicates through writing — but mostly we have her interior thoughts and monologues. And…I just feel like I really know Elyse. She is definitely the kind of person you’d want to be friends with. Elyse was complicated and suffering and trying to piece herself back together after the accident and AHHH I JUST ADMIRE HER BRAVERY SO SO MUCH. Also her relationship with Christian was adorable and so shippable.
Plus the book has just a gorgeous setting. Mostly beachy and slightly witchy (because Elyse’s aunt is all into herbs and tarot cards and organic tea or whatnot). Also excellent writing. Excellent! I just want to go find more by this author and devour it.
Obviously I am a rather rabid fan of this story! I awed at how many characters there were and how they were ALL so dimensional and well-written. But I also crave fish and chips, so thanks for nothing, book. I totally think this book is underrated and deserves more love! It’s empowering and special and full of seaweed. Definitely recommend!