“If the sea had offered me one last chance—if I could’ve bargained with Death to make this broken wing mine, a soul with all its beautiful imperfections—would I have taken it?
Even after everything I’d lost?”- Elyse, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
Title: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
Author: Sarah Ockler
My Thoughts: This contemporary YA is loosely based off of a Disney favorite, The Little Mermaid. This book follows our main character, Elyse d’Abreau, who loses her voice after a boating accident. No longer having the ability to sing, let along speak, she feels like her dreams to be singer have been shattered. In need of an escape from the tiny island of Tobago, Elyse goes to stay with a family friend, Lemon, in Atargatis Cove, an Oregon seaside town. For the first few months, she tends to stay by herself. She has a lot of pent up anger, especially toward her twin sister Natalie whom she holds responsible for shattering her dreams. She spends most of her night on an abandoned boat—or so she thinks—writing poems and just trying to escape reality.
One night while on the abandoned boat, she hears voices and footsteps. She soon finds that the boat is not abandoned, but rather that it belongs to Christian Kane—local summer hottie and heart-breaker. A few days later, everyone comes over to Lemon’s house to celebrate Christian’s birthday. During the party, the Mayor of the small town proposes a wager: Christian and the Mayor’s son, Noah, will race against each other in this years Pirate Regatta (a boat race they have during the summer festival). If Christian wins, he will get Noah’s boat the Never Flounder. However, if Noah wins, Christian’s father has to sell his properties to P & D, one of which include Lemon’s house. (For the past couple of months, P & D has been buying properties in the small town and rebuilding them in order to make the town a resort area to attract more tourists and bring in more income).
Elyse does not want Lemon to lose her home, so she decides to help Christian in getting his boat ready. Elyse used to do a lot of sailing in Tobago, but then the accident happened and has not been back on the sea since. While helping Christian with this project, she starts having to face her inner demons, like accepting the fact that she will never be able to sing again, forgiving her sister, and figuring it out what Plan B is. Also, (because it won’t be a YA contemporary without it) a relationship starts to blossom between Christian and Elyse and it changes both of them. While I don’t think that this really a coming of age story, I believe that it is more of a rediscovery story as Elyse tries to find herself again, as well as her voice—her true voice.
I really liked this book, more than I thought I would. You definitely see how different aspects of The Little Mermaid are woven into this novel. First, just like Ariel, Elyse does not have the ability to speak and just how Ariel’s voice was locked away in a shell locket, Elyse wears a shell necklace around her neck to hide the scar from her accident. Second, many characters have share the same in both books: Lemon’s real name is Ursula and while she wasn’t evil, she really helped Elyse move on from the accident; Christian’s little brother’s name is Sebastian and while Sebastian in The Little Mermaid was a real stickler for the rules, Sebastian in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids marches to the beat of his own drum.
Like many of Ockler’s books, what you see is NOT what you get. While the cover looks all happy-go-luck, the book is a lot darker like many of her other books. One thing that I found refreshing while reading this book was out sex was written. It’s not fluffy and sugar coated like many YA books…it felt REAL. Another thing I liked was reading a book from the perspective of a different racial background (maybe I’m bias because I’m West Indian too). Overall, I think this is a great book. I wasn’t rolling my eyes every five seconds at your typical YA clichés…HIGHLY recommend this read!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!