Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
Author: Sarah Ockler
Published: June 2nd, 2015
Hardcover, 403 pages
5 Gold Stars

(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 to 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...

This is the kind of retelling I can get behind. It is subtly a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but it never comes off in a fairy-tale sort of way and it stands on its own as a contemporary story. Elyse is one six sisters from Trinidad who was born from the sea as it took her mother from her. A freak accident years later took her talented voice from her and ruined her life. She fears the sea is trying to return to her and finish her off so she takes a long vacation to see her aunt and cousin in Atargatis Cove in Oregon. This small town is just what she needs, no one asks her questions and they just think of her as Kirby's odd cousin. Before long she catches the attention of the Cove's coveted playboy, Christian, and he isn't afraid to ask her questions and find out all about her. Soon Elyse is caught up in Christian and falling for his charms. She agrees to be his first mate for the Pirate Regatta, the first time she will be back on the water since her accident, and the fear that comes with this and new love is strong, but Christian shows her that in order to find her voice, she must do things she's afraid of. Along with her cousin Kirby, her aunt, and Christian's hopeful little brother Sebastian, Elyse will finally take the plunge she's been dreading all her life.

I fell right into the story and didn't want to let go. I drowned in Elyse's sorrow from losing her voice and trying to move on with her life away from her twin sister and family. Having lost the only thing she thought she was good at, she hides away inside herself and just tries to survive in this new town. But Atargatis Cove is full of mermaid lore and there's too much to learn and see to keep herself away. Sebastian believes that she is the mystical mermaid come to life and Elyse plays along with him. They go on mermaid adventures as she falls for his older brother. Sebastian was my favourite character. He is so lively and unique and not afraid to be himself, even when he is told he cannot dress like a mermaid at the regatta, he will do whatever it takes to be able to look pretty that day. I love how hard everyone tried to make sure he could dress up how he wanted and would not let his spirit diminish. Christian, who started off the notorious playboy who would have anyone he wanted turned out to be very sweet and caring towards Elyse, wanting her to find herself again and willing to help in anyway needed. Their love was quick to happen, but I think everyone would fall in love with Christian that fast. The moments they shared alone on the boat were wonderfully written and I loved that he fell in love with her spirit and voice, despite not being able to talk.

So much happens over this summer and it's all so magical yet real. The surreality of the town and the mermaid legend gave this story a twist and a bit of an edge as we never knew if the ocean would catch up to Elyse. Atargatis Cove sounds mystical and alluring with its mermaid legends and Wiccan lore. Everything about the town felt magical and I loved that it played just as big a part of Elyse or Christian did in this book. The drama in Christians family was just enough to make for a suspenseful ending where the town hung on whether Christian and Elyse won the Regatta. Ockler's writing is gorgeous and lyrical, and it's amazing how well she tied in the themes throughout the book with feminism and power. There is so much diversity in this that it will stand apart from other summer reads for a long time and I can't wait to pick up another one of her books. This is the kind of book you want to read in the summer, it has substance, hope, love and a bit of magic. Now that's the kind of book I can get behind.

"Love didn't save me; it changed me. Changed me into someone who could save myself."

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