Monday, July 11, 2011

Mermaid- A Twist on the Classic Tale

Two sheltered princesses, one wounded warrior; who will live happily ever after?
Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared into the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father's greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom.

Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and the chance to win his heart….  

A surprising take on the classic tale, Mermaid is the story of two women with everything to lose. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, it will make you think twice about the fairytale you heard as a child, keeping you in suspense until the very last page. -Plot summary borrowed from Barnes & Noble

Ok, this really is not a teen book. But I am a young adult and I enjoyed it, so let's go with it. ^_^

I was really taken with Carolyn Turgeon's prose. Her writing is detailed and yet poetic enough to conjure up a very strong visual picture of her settings. You really feel as if you are standing on a rocky, windswept beach with Margrethe, or gazing up at the ceiling of Lenia's amber palace.

Not only that, but the author managed to re-tell a well-known story with originality, grace and heart. I've always hated the Andersen original, but, while still keeping the basic framework, Turgeon has reworked the story beautifully. Actually, some other reviewers called this a much darker take on the original. Have they read the original?? It's a far cry from the Disney version. This novel didn't strike me as all that dark, unless you are comparing it to the Walt Disney movie, or some of the lighter teen mermaid fare like Forgive My Fins. To my mind it's far less twisted than Andersen's story.

The strongest praise I have for this novel is that the author has created not one but two likable female protagonists. Both were strong, interesting individuals with believable motivations for their actions (while both were in love with the prince despite only brief superficial meetings with him, their additional reasons for seeking a life with him carried the story beyond romantic drivel). I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out which, if either of them, would make it to happily ever after.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Mermaid's Mirror

The Mermaid's Mirror, by L.K. Madigan

Lena has lived her whole life near the beach — walking for miles up and down the shore and breathing the salty air, swimming in the cold water, and watching the surfers rule the waves — the problem is, she’s spent her whole life just watching. 

As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Lena vows she will no longer watch from the sand: she will learn to surf.

But her father — a former surfer himself — refuses to allow her to take lessons. After his near drowning years ago, he can’t bear to let Lena take up the risky sport.

Yet something keeps drawing Lena to the water . . . an ancient, powerful magic. And one morning Lena catches sight of this magic: a beautiful woman — with a silvery tail.

Now nothing can stop Lena from seeking the mermaid, not even the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove.

And soon . . . what she sees in the mermaid’s mirror will change her life forever. -Plot summary borrowed from Good Reads

I loved this book. Lena and her family were really likable and well-developed characters and I enjoyed following their stories. There was a lot in this book that could easily have felt forced or artificial (teen dialogue, family drama, IM conversatios, surf lingo) but to me Madigan pulled it off and made everything feel pretty natural. Her writing is uncluttered but still full of lovely descriptions and gives the reader a great sense of setting, and really lets you get to know the characters. The plot was never too predictable and the ending leaves you wanting more.

I especially enjoyed the underwater setting. All of the undersea dwellers were named for famous merfolk of various extractions (Lorelei, Rusalka, Merrow), which I thought was a nice and non-cheesy way of adding in some mermaid lore. At times the story veered close to the Hans Christian Andersen story, and Lena references it herself a few times, but this is definitely an original story and not a fairytale reboot. Still, I think fans of retellings would enjoy this story as well.

Sadly, the planned sequel is not to be. L.K. Madigan (real name Lisa Wolfson) passed away in February 2011. :(

Summer Sirens

Ever since Twilight, YA lit has been flooded with vampires. Then werewolves. Then an assortment of angels, demons, ghosts, fairies and dragons. Not that I'm complaining, mind. But I was wondering what was left. As far as I can see, mermaids are the next big (brace yourself and I apologize in advance) splash.

I figured summer would be a perfect time to catch up on some of these new additions, so keep an eye out for some mermaid book reviews over the next few weeks!

The picture to the left is the cover of Donna Jo Napoli's Sirena from 2000. I won't be reviewing it here, but it is one I'd recommend!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Unwind, by Neal Schusterman

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive. -Plot summary borrowed from Good Reads

This book was chilling. Sure, the premise is completely unrealistic (hacking teenagers to bits in a creepy lab setting is a "compromise" that would horrify pro-choicers and pro-lifers equally), but once (/if) you can get past that, this is a suspenseful ride through a truly scary setting. You can't not root for these kids, especially as they mature and attempt to overcome their situation. Lev's character is especially interesting as he goes from an eerily willing sacrificial lamb to a jaded runaway and ultimately to something completely new.

I think it was a smart move on the author's part to not just show kids due for "unwinding," but to show the many different reasons parents or other authorities would opt for this horrendous procedure. Kids acting up? Why not cut your losses?  State can't afford a ward who underperforms musically? Let's break them down for their useful component parts! Want to show your support for your society? Offer up one of your kids, you can always have more! All areas of abortion politics are explored here, including the idea of unwanted newborns. In this setting, parents unwilling or unable to raise their child are able to "stork" them, leaving the infant on someone else's doorstep. Whoever opens that door becomes the child's official legal guardian.

Schusterman covers as much ground as possible, and answers through various happenings pretty much every question a reader can think of. What happens to the consciousnesses of the unwound? Can a parent change their mind after ordering their child to be unwound? What happens if someone did not want to be "storked"? Does anyone in this society realize how crazy this all is??

He does give one chapter detailing the unwinding process, which is not for the faint of heart. Never mind that you may have found the idea of unwinding silly, this will Freak You Out. If you are a fan of dystopias, or biopunk, or suspenseful stories with engaging protagonists and a philosophical bent, I would definitely recommend Unwind.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Bumped, Megan McCafferty
When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.
Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.
Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.
When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. -Plot summary borrowed from Good Reads

Dystopias for the 16 and Pregnant/Juno/Gloucester "pregnancy pact" generation. Like Matched and Wither, this is another internalized dystopian novel from a feminine perspective, although there is far less emphasis on the Evil Authority, and more on the quiet day to day consequences of living in a society where teen pregnancy is not only encouraged, but commercialized. Having Melody and Harmony as alternating narrators really helps to shed light on the issues of this society from both sides of the argument, as well.

My only real problem with this book was trying to get a fix on the slang, like, rilly. Even that was kind of intriguing in terms of world building, though, as much of it was based on pregnancy-related terms: bumping, preggo, negging (reneging on a contract is a major faux pas), terminating, fertilicious, etc.

Check this one out if you're looking for a less than challenging but relevant dystopian novel, or something to read after ODing on a Teen Mom marathon. The sequel, Thumped, is due out Spring 2012.


Wither, by Lauren DeStefano

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb — males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape — to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left. -Plot summary borrowed from Good Reads.

Like Matched, this is another internalized dystopia from a female perspective (which, honestly, is an interesting and worthwhile take on the slightly tired genre). While I enjoyed Wither, I thought it was slightly lackluster and not quite my cup of tea. Rhine doesn't take enough initiative for my liking, secondary characters are not as well developed as they really could be (with the possible exception of Rhine's sister wife Jenna, who is haunting in her deeper understanding of their situation and attempts to help Rhine), and the reader is not given much information about the society. Many of those quibbles could be addressed in the sequel, Fever, due out in February 2012, but many readers may not want to wait.