By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian
I’ve been doing a lot of good reading this summer (we have a staff summer reading program too!) so once again, you get to hear my thoughts on another great, summery read!
What I Just Read: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
What’s It About (Jacket Description): 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 . . .
Did I Like It: It had depth, a summer feel, and an engaging story, so obviously YES!
Thoughts: Despite the fact that The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is actually set in a pretty chilly town in Oregon, rather than someplace warm, it still felt like a good summer read to me. There was an ocean, beaches, no school, outdoor activities, romance, friendship – all the things I associate with the best summer reads (like Sarah Dessen’s Colby books!) So despite the hoodies and the freezing ocean, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids definitely satisfied my desire for a good seasonal read. But it dealt with some heavier issues as well, so don’t mistake “summery” for “frivolous” – the best summer books are never totally frivolous.
Elyse is dealing with some pretty heavy issues in this book. Literally losing the power to speak and – just as bad for her – to sing is a tough, tough thing, and is very recent in Elyse’s past. She’s dealing with the grief of losing something she loved, and the pain of trying to figure out whole new ways to communicate, whole new ways to be. Add into that the threat of her beloved aunt and cousin losing their home, right as it is becoming her home, and Elyse has lots on her mind. But despite that, she still finds time to laugh, to love, to make new friends, and to feel good about herself. Grief is complicated, and Elyse’s grieving and living showcase that beautifully.
This is a book where the details, the side characters, and the smaller plots really add up to more than the sum of their parts. Which is impressive, because each of those parts is pretty great. A highlight of the side plots and characters is Christian’s younger brother Sebastian, who must hold on to his sense of self despite the shaming he receives from others for not fitting in to the box of “normal little boy” that they want him to fit into. And he does – it’s not easy, and he gets down sometimes, but Sebastian never lets go of his love for mermaids and pretty things, his sweetness and affection for Elyse and Christian, or his love of Atargatis Cove itself. Other side elements are equally as rich, like the nuanced portrayal of non-physical abuse, the proud “feminist killjoy” friend Elyse makes, Elyse’s aunt Lemon and her coven, the stormy, cold Pacific, and more.
Overall, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids was a layered, complex read that still managed to feel perfectly in season with the summer. It’s a book that makes me want to read it again, so I can get more of the nuance, find things I didn’t see before, and have a chance to know the characters even better. And if that doesn’t convince you to pick it up, maybe one of Elyse’s poems that plays a key role in the story will make you want to hear more of her voice on the page.
plan Battered and Broken
plan Boxed in
plan Bailed on and Back from the dead
plan Better luck next time
plan Balled up
plan Backward steps
plan Blackballed, Black-marked, and Blacklisted
plan B-side, Bye Bye Baby
plan Belly up and Beat down
plan Bad days ahead and Best are far Behind”
-From The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler