Callie Morgan has long lived choked by the failure of her own lungs, the result of an elusive pulmonary illness that has plagued her since childhood. A childhood marked early by the drowning death of her mother—a death to which Callie was the sole witness. Her father has moved them inland, away from the memories of the California coast her mother loved so much and toward promises of recovery—and the escape of denial—in arid, landlocked air.
But after years of running away, the promise of a life-changing job for her father brings Callie and him back to the coast, to Florida, where Callie’s symptoms miraculously disappear. For once, life seems delightfully normal. But the ocean’s edge offers more than healing air … it holds a magnetic pull, drawing Callie closer and closer to the chilly, watery embrace that claimed her mother. Returned to the ocean, Callie comes of age and comes into a family destiny that holds generations of secrets and very few happy endings. -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads
I was completely drawn in to Rosenfield's Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone, and had high hopes for the creeping horror in this novel, many of which were met. The prose was gorgeous. Callie's family mysteries were intriguing. The romance was mostly sweet and believable while not overwhelming the plot. I loved the ambiguity of Callie's condition- is she really ill, or is she some depth-dwelling horor-beast with gills??
Unfortunately, that's exactly where this book lost me. I really can't blame Rosenfield. It's not her fault that I'm so much more likely to believe, and be interested in, a fantasy plotline than a mental illness one. A book can drop all the hints it wants that the narrator is unreliable and likely disturbed- I'll still root for them being a mermaid or visited by fairies.
(One exception to this rule is Caitlin R. Kiernan, but I think that's because she writes about people encountering supernatural occurrences while also battling depression or schizophrenia, all with a deft hand and distressingly evocative language)
So, while there were plenty of things I liked about this book (and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads), I think it's one that will work better for its target teen audience, especially those who haven't binged on similar titles. If you're looking for something more adult on related marine themes, check out Caitlin R. Kiernan's The Drowning Girl or Sarah Monette's Somewhere Beneath Those Waves, and there's always the Mermaid tag on this very blog!
If you need me, I'll be rereading "The Shadow over Innsmouth."