Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale," by Carolyn Turgeon

Long ago, the world between humans and mermaids was permeable. But after the sea queen decreed absolute separation, the only time a mermaid or merman could visit the top world was on their 18th birthday.

Lenia has always been intrigued by land, by humans, and waited impatiently for her own 18th birthday to see for herself what humans are like. But a powerful storm rages as she rises to the top of ocean, where she sees a ship torn asunder and humans drowning all around her. She is drawn to one young man, admiring his vulnerability and his fight to stay alive, so she pulls him to shore.

In a convent at the end of the world, a princess, Mira, hides from the enemies of her father's kingdom, warriors from the south. As she stares out at the turbulent sea, she witnesses a woman pull a man to shore. Mira is astonished to witness a mermaid, having only heard stories about the creatures when she was a child.

Both Mira and Lenia fall in love with the young man (in mere moments), who turns out to be a prince from the south ... The son of Mira's father's enemy. Christopher is nursed back to health at the convent; Lenia must return to her home, where she moons over the stranger she saved; and Mira's father rages to the convent upon hearing of the young man, who has recuperated and gone by the time the soldiers arrive.

The next third of the book chronicles a lot of longing: Mira wants Christopher; Lenia wants Christopher; Christopher wants the woman who saved him from drowning (Lenia) and whom he spent time with in the convent (Mira). (He thinks they are the same person.)

I wanted to like this book, but it's basically about all the ways women give up themselves and sacrifice their happiness for a man. And no, it's not written that way to make readers think or to introduce irony to tweens. Sadly, it's serious. One woman sacrifices her freedom in the name of staving off war. Of course, getting a man she "loves" is part of her willingness. The other woman sacrifices her voice and the core of who she is (her tail) to get the man she "loves." And why wouldn't Christopher fall for the gorgeous, almost ethereal girl who can't say boo to him? She just gazes at him with adoring eyes and allows him her heart, her body, her silence.

The final third is the expected girl-hating-girl drama, where no one puts blame on the boy. Sad, really. Sad for all the young, impressionable girls out there who'll eat this up and not think twice.

2 stars

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