Title: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
Author: Sarah Ockler
Published by: Simon Pulse
Publication date: June 2, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling
Summary from Goodreads:
The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.
Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.
Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.
When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .
I picked up Chasing Mermaids because it seemed like a fun, summer read loosely based on The Little Mermaid, and I was intrigued by the premise about a girl coping with the monumental lose of loosing her voice. It’s also exciting to read a book with diverse characters. Elyse is from Tobago, a small island in the Caribbean. Sarah Ockler writes wonderfully, and I was at ease reading through the prose. The thing I like most about Chasing Mermaids is the topic of figuring out life when all your expectations and opportunities are removed. Elyse has no choice but to move on, because her dream depended on having an auditory voice. She has to face her fears, learn to depend on others, and discover who she is when all her hopes and dreams are washed away. She’s going through all the stages of grief.
Despite the things I like about this book, like the faithful girl friendships and some strong family ties. Chasing Mermaids left me feeling MEH in the end. Here’s why:
Christian is a playboy and I’m so tired of this character. Why authors regularly default to this kind of love interest is confusing to me. Is it the fantasy of taming the boy? I don’t know. I also don’t like that there never seems to be any consequences for these playboys and the womanizing life they’ve been living. They get to sleep around with lots of girls and still get the girl in the end, but there’s never any thought about dealing with the guys past in the new relationship. If you think there wouldn’t be conflict in a relationship with a history like that, you’re delusional.
The mysticism, magical references were confusing and didn’t add to the story for me. (Minor spoilers, so skip to next paragraph if you’re not interested) I understand the need for Elyse to face this magical presence in the end, but I didn’t like that facing Atargatis was the means to Elyse’s recovery. Maybe it was supposed to be metaphor, but I thought she could’ve accomplished healing outside of Atargatis.
Would I let my teen read this book?
I don’t think this should be Young Adult. The characters are adults (18-20), and the sexual content is more graphic than what I think kids who can pick up books in the YA section should be exposed to (as young as 12…advanced readers age 8-9 in some cases). I’ve recommended 17 and up for this book. Ideally, this could be a good book to read with your teen, since there are many good discussion topics.
Age recommendation: 17
Language – moderate; 4-5 F-bombs
Drugs & Alcohol— Underage drinking at parties
Sex – The sex scenes were a little graphic, with some details. Elyse masturbates in her room at night; two sex scenes
Violence – none
My Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Buy The Summer of Chasing Mermaids on Amazon.com
The Splintered Series
Author: A. G. Howard
Published by: Amulet Books
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance
“I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.”
The bugs and flowers whisper to Alyssa Gardner. Alyssa is an artist. She creates imaginative landscapes with the bugs she collects and pins to her pieces. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s recreating images from the real Wonderland—not the cutesy Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Everyone knows that Alyssa is related to Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Carroll’s story. But what people don’t realize is that she also comes from a long line of women plagued with Wonderland delusions. Her mother, Alison, has been mentally unstable since she was a little girl. Alison even warned Alyssa about the day she would “become a woman” and the whispers would follow. Alyssa tries to ignore the whispers, but worries she’s going to end up committed like her mother.
These whispers are part of a curse that was put on the Alice line of women, and when Alyssa sets out to break the curse, she discovers there’s much more to the story. Wonderland is a simultaneously dark and vibrant place. You’re introduced to many familiar characters from Carroll’s story, but their true characters are more freakish than the fairy tale. Madness still reins in Wonderland and Alyssa finds herself drawn to it.
Her childhood friend, Jeb, who she loves, and a new mysterious acquaintance, Morpheous, accompany Alyssa on her journey. Jeb is a faithful protector. Morpheous is a deceiving, self-serving, snarky-snark. Throughout the books Alyssa is drawn to both men. Jeb appeals to her human side, and Morpheous ignites her wonderland side. It’s a love triangle. I don’t really like love triangles, and I was frustrated with this one. I thought that Alyssa could actually easily give up one of them and still manage to balance herself, but you’ll have to read the series to find out how this web is unraveled.
Did I mention that Morpheous is a bug? This series totally reminded me of this song:
I'm not sure how I even know Ugly Bug Ball, but I REMEMBERED THE WORDS. I feel so old.
I borrowed these books from the library, but I just noticed that the first book in the series, Splintered, is only $3.99 on Amazon for Kindle now.
Would I let my teen read this series?
The Splintered series is imaginative, mysterious, and exciting. I liked A.G. Howard’s unique take on the Alice story. I would’ve preferred a little less romantic tension, and I thought the books dragged in some areas, but I like the series overall. I think these books are appropriate for high school students. There’s some sexual content. Most of the sexual content is referenced to, and there’s a few heavy kissing scenes.
Age recommendation: 14
Language – mild
Drugs & Alcohol – none
Sex – Morpheous, particularly is a fan of sexual innuendos; Alyssa and Jeb plan to do “it.” Several heavy make-out scenes where characters are pressing up against each other; Sex is often referenced
Violence – Some, mostly referenced with little graphic detail
Buy Splintered on Amazon.com, now only $3.99
Title: The Heir
Author: Kiera Cass
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication date: May 5, 2015
Genres: Dystopia, Romance
Summary from Goodreads:
Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible.
But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.
Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought.
Eadlyn is a princess of contradictions. She wants to be seen as capable and strong, but also resents her responsibility of being groomed for queen. One thing she’s certain she does not want: a husband. Eadlyn has trouble letting in other people. She is so used to putting up her guard that she has few friends outside her family, and has never been in a real romantic relationship. When the Selection begins, she’s skeptical at best. She’s a difficult character to like. Disconnected with her people, and more self-centered than she realizes, I have a feeling Eadlyn will have a lot of growing to do in this series.
If you haven’t read the other books in The Selection series, then you don’t know the process is the Bachelorette for royalty. Prince Maxon (now the king and Eadlyn’s father) was the Bachelor in the first three books. There are recurring characters from the original series, but it’s not necessary to read it if you want to start with The Heir. I was a little disappointed in the adult versions of Maxon and America (Eadlyn’s mother). It was difficult for me to see their personalities beyond “paternal figures who went through the selection.”
When it comes to the men fighting for Eadlyn’s affections, there are a few front runners. A quirky foreigner and his translator make one of the most interesting options. A childhood acquaintance-enemy-friend (they’re confused) is also a growing relationship. I really don’t know where Eadlyn’s affections will alight in the end.
For a sample of the entire series, you can download this free Kindle Selection Series Sampler.
Would I let my teen read this book?
The Selection series and The Heir are fun, clean romances for teens who like royal romances and independent women. Eadlyn, in The Heir, is also a great example of a heroine whose faults are easily visible. Readers can recognize those faults and hopefully invest in her maturity through her experiences. I recommend these books for middle-schoolers and up!
Age recommendation: 13
Language – none
Drugs & Alcohol— none
Sex – A few kisses, one a little more heated than the other.
Violence – little to none – Eadlyn finds herself in danger, but angry villagers tossing tomatoes is only bruising.
My Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Buy The Heir on Amazon.com
I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.