Elise Faulkner is more at home in the waters of her beloved Lake Michigan than on land where her beauty queen mom is always on her back about her lack of a social life; her sister is dating the boy of her dreams; her favorite penpal--the one who wrote about mermaids in Ghana--has gotten married and ended their correspondence; and no one's allowed to talk about her glamorous great-grandmother, the deep-sea wreck diver. Elise is biding her time with books until she can flee. But then crazy Chiara Hanover pops into her life, as does Miguel, a mysterious carnival worker whose dark future has been predicted by a gypsy.
3 stars, from Maddy - It’s been a few years since I’ve picked up a book like this, so when the opportunity presented itself, I thought ‘eh, why not’. Just the break in my usual book routine made it a somewhat entertaining read. The author’s writing style is really easy to follow; it flows from thought to thought with minimal problems. The pacing is nice too, there is minimal filler between various action scenes, just enough to give the reader a break between moments, but not enough for you to completely get lost or lose interest. The scene descriptions are rather well done as well, I very much enjoyed those. The one nagging thing I wish was specified, was the era this work takes place in. Most points I get the sense we’re in the 90’s or some pre-cell phone era, filled this those wonderful cord phones that curly-cued their way through houses and those ever so fun pay phones. The rest of the time, I get the sense it’s completely modern.
Where the book falls flat for me are the characters and the plot itself. The characters, albeit cliché, are given just enough individual quirks to make them stand out in the reader’s memory- which is rather difficult to manage when you have upwards of ten different ones throughout the length of a work. Those quirks were nice; they helped me keep track of who was who as I read. Unfortunately other than that, they came off as rather static, flat and random in their decisions. The main character does things impulsively, and while that might be mimicking a stereotypical teenage girl, it doesn’t really do anything for the reader-to-character connection. In fact, there wasn’t much of a connection to the characters. You learned about them, you watched them worry and fret about things and live a teenage life, but you didn’t really get much deeper than that. There were glimmers in the very beginning of the book where the main character was trying to understand the person her mother was, where you, the reader, got to sort of connect to her, but since that was only touched on in the end it fell flat by about halfway through the book. That was one of the highlights, in that regard. If the narrator did something rash or stupid, especially later in the book, I found I didn’t care, she asked for it by blindly following some secondary character or some half-thought out decision. It’s even more fitting when the worst repercussion given is a simple grounding, or despite not thinking much through, everything worked out with minimal hitches.
Characters you expected to hold a greater role (especially in reading the blurb) end up actually not being around much by the end, with a character end to one that is poorly led up to and kind of tossed in out of the blue. It felt like an attempt at a plot twist that really, other than the main’s obsession with honoring their memory and life in a few ways, turned around and made the reader question the character’s point in the plot in the first place.
The plot though, did make sure that these characters had a place. Each one was a catalyst for the main to do one thing or another, or a supporting character in the main’s exploits. The other strong point the plot has going for it is that the author didn’t forget anything she foreshadowed. Little details came full circle and had some sort of an end point. That was about it. The plot becomes muddled when the author seems to suddenly switch thoughts and decide to add gypsies to the mix. What started out as what appeared to be a mermaid story suddenly became a duel plot; both sides warring for the same characters, time and place. And, as you expect for such a short book, both plots are severely weakened and lackluster as a result, despite the author’s best efforts to wrap everything together at the end. They’re just too different, too strong on their own to be paired together like this- though the promise of something really good is there.
The beginning of the work also held the promise for something different. I actually liked the beginning, though as I reflect back as I’m writing this review, I cannot figure out the point for it. Take it out, and the story wouldn’t really be affected. The things the character suddenly draws in from the past in the present (a train ticket of her mother’s, meeting the secondary character some point in the distant past) were either only pulled in to give several pages of background or to give the main leverage over her mother in the present. Some character reflections, while taking pages to build up to only are mentioned in passing later or completely forgotten about. It doesn’t make sense, and kind of gives the reader the sense that their time is being wasted for nothing. The penpal in Ghana doesn’t have a greater role. The potential was there, but it was casted out halfway through. Mermaids take a backseat to gypsies, despite being in the title and significantly in the blurb. You expect to walk into the book with this being another YA romance-y cliché (don’t worry there are plenty of those clichés throughout this work) with mermaids or mermen, but you get neither- just this passing moment with what the character believes she sees, the emphasis and drive behind this whole plot are the gypsy part of the plot, and a good part of that was never really explained to give the full effect.
So why the three stars? I see the potential for a greater book that didn’t hold the feel of just being slapped together in the end. The blurb shared it by making it sound like so much that it just didn’t end up being, which is both disappointing and explains exactly why those two concepts aren’t found together in the same pages that often. They’re too different, too difficult to place in the same plot without one overshadowing the other.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.