It’s your friendly neighborhood kissy book expert here, and in today’s SPFBO review, we have a YA Mermaid Romance. OooOOoOoo
She wanted her life to change… he wanted his to stay the same.
Best friends share everything with each other. Or do they? Seventeen-year-old Ashlyn Frances Lanski is tired of her boring, single life. Spending time with her best friend Tatiana, dreaming about kissing Tatiana’s twin brother Fin, and swimming competitively are her only sanctuary. The girls plan to leave their drab lakeside town far behind for college. But when Tatchi fails to return home after a family emergency, and no one knows where the family has gone, Ash chooses to do something drastic to find them.
Ashlyn is about to discover what she’d thought to be true her whole life, wasn’t, and the truth, too fantastical to imagine. Secrets lurk beneath the deep blue waters of Lake Tahoe, secrets that will change Ashlyn’s life forever.
“Would I like this boy?”
I bit my lip to keep from smiling. “Yeah. I think so. He’s nice.”
“So I imagine you’ll need a dress.”
“And I’ll need a gun.”
This is the story of Ashlyn, who is a high school student who lives in Lake Tahoe. She is a pretty average girl, with the same high school experience as many average high school girls. Boy trouble. Mean girl trouble. Swim team practice, and so on. She delights in coming home and sharing her gossip from the day with her best friend and neighbor, Tatiana, aka Tatch. Tatch’s parents are super, super strict, and so Tatch and her twin brother Fin are homeschooled, and not allowed out after dark. Ash also finds herself crushing pretty hard on Fin, and has for years. When Tatch and Fin and their whole family pretty much up and disappear suddenly, Ash is concerned. At the same time, it’s nearly time for the school’s ball (pretty much prom), and she’s just been asked by the hottest guy in school.
It’s also the story of Fin, who is, like his entire family, a merperson. Merpeople (consisting of Mermaids and Mermen, obviously) are a reclusive people who live in their underwater realm, with few exceptions. Fin’s family, who guard one of the gates to their world, are one of the few mer families who are allowed to live on land and associate with humans. Many merpeople are quite xenophobic, and consider humans not to be trusted. Though, humans can be turned into merpeople, and some of them, known as beta-mers, live among the rest, but are usually at least slightly shunned.
Fin and Tatch’s dad gets sent on an important and secret mission and they’re stuck underwater until he gets back, which could be months. Because they don’t turn eighteen for two more months, Tatiana and Fin can’t be anywhere unchaperoned, especially not among other single mers, because merpeople, especially mermaids, have an allure about them that can bring trouble, especially if they kiss someone, because kissing, as it turns out, is how a merperson mates. And they mate for life. Their first kiss mingles their souls together, which more or less makes the pair (mer or human) instantly fall in love with each other, and if they stay apart too long, they’ll pretty much go crazy.
This one was a pretty easy read, and was engaging. I found myself reading it pretty quickly, all told. It is definitely, most definitely directed at young adults. Specifically, I would say that a younger teenage girl would be the perfect audience for this book. It is told from the POV of both Ash and Fin, who are quite different points of view, as you can imagine. Ash’s chapters tend to be about your average American girl’s high school experience. I will admit to finding myself less enthusiastic about Ashlyn’s exploits through high school and much more interested in Fin’s exploits through the world of the merpeople.
Oh, by the way, the realm of the merpeople is called Natatoria, which made me laugh almost every time, because the word ‘natatorium’ in Latin means an indoor pool. Natatoria is the plural. Indoor pools. The beautiful underwater kingdom of Indoor Pools. Just saying. Moving on. 😀
The pace of the book moved along quite well, and I think that it helped that the POV switched between Ash and Fin fairly regularly, so it never seemed too fast, and never too slow. Fin and Tatiana were characters that I rooted for, because their story with all the rules and ridiculousness of the merpeople, was far more interesting to me than the daily life and prom preparations of Ash. The mer have many rules, most of which limit where they can go, and who they can talk to. Especially if they’re female or a beta-mer, who are most especially subjugated in typical mer society. Tatiana is being pressured to ‘promise’ (this is the act of kissing, and resulting connection) herself to Azor, the son of the king, who she really dislikes. Promising is very commonly an arranged situation, with the parents choosing the mates of the children, however Fin and Tatch’s parents have promised to let them choose for themselves, and Tatch does not want to choose Azor, but with their mom being a beta-mer, and their father being away with no clear date of return, the pressure is on.
Fin befriends his combat instructor, a local beta-mer and former sailor named Badger, who is apparently very Irish. This is done by giving him an accent that is ridiculously over-the-top at times, and slang that was shoved in his dialog whenever possible that got to be eye-rollingly overboard pretty quick in scenes where Badger features prominently.
Fin finds himself longing for home, for the simple pleasures of living on land. TV, coffee, and the like. So he sneaks out of
NatatoriaIndoor Pools and checks out what’s happening back home. And what’s happening is that Ash, that girl next door that he’s had a crush on since forever, is getting out of a limo, all dolled up, with a dude that isn’t him. He goes back to the world of the mer, slightly crushed, but returns the next day when opportunity arises. That very same day, Ash, worried for her missing best friend Tatch, goes out in her little boat to see if the coffee can of memories they buried together years ago can somehow summon her back. And on her way back, she falls in the lake and nearly drowns. Good thing that Fin was conveniently around to save her life. With mouth to mouth. Which totally, totally counts.
However, with that said, this book ended on a really sour note for me, and not only because it ends in a pretty brutal cliffhanger. No, my biggest issue with it is that this method of ‘falling in love’ by basically having your feelings magically changed into obsession for the first person whose lips touch yours for any reason is not toeing my creepy line as much as doing a dance a few feet beyond it. The main character, a 17 year old girl who has literally had one boyfriend in her life and has never been kissed before, becomes obsessed with Fin despite knowing hardly anything true about him. And while it takes them a while to reunite after his rescuing her, when that does happen, this relationship then goes at the speed of light. It went from kissing, to breaking out the L-word, to a proposal…. within days.
Fin was really just trying to save her life when he did what he did, but this kiss between them changes the whole dynamic of their feelings towards each other into something that felt way more like obsession than love. Ash spends a week or so after being rescued not remembering what happened, but beginning to act more and more erratically until she and Fin reunited. She also had a boyfriend at the time, but basically brushes that boyfriend off in a ‘well I haven’t talked to him at all and am ignoring his calls, so he’ll give up eventually’ move instead of actually breaking it off with him, despite him never being anything but sweet to her. Ash went from ‘maybe all this craziness I feel is PTSD from almost drowning, I better see a psychologist’ to sleeping on the dock of the lake in winter to maybe see her mer-boyfriend because she only feels complete when she’s with him and he can’t come over when it’s dark. Elsewhere this plot twist is embracing its creepiness by being used to make an antagonist more of an antagonist, but here it is presented as being inconvenient, but romantic all the same.
All of this was rather jarring for me, since up until this point, the book was largely a really tame YA romance novel. Nobody swears. Not even the over-the-top Irish sailor. Ash is (for most of this book) an innocent, never-been-kissed, goes to church on the regular, and never gets in trouble sort of teenage girl. She and her most popular guy in school boyfriend don’t go much further than some hand holding and a kiss on the cheek. Even after their reunion and subsequent make out sessions and what have you, Fin still promises to ‘make an honest woman out of her’ before taking it further. Which, while his intentions are certainly noble, makes little sense to me, as the consequences of kissing a merperson are pointed out repeatedly throughout this book. Kissing to merpeople is marriage. You guys are already mer-married, so what exactly constitutes an ‘honest woman’ here?
So, this one started out as a fairly light, tame YA romance with mermaids and ended on an entirely different note than that. I’d say this book’s target audience would be anywhere from 12-17 years old, and despite it trilling my creepy-alarm I would say that it does have an audience that would love it in spite of the things about it that I didn’t like. My sister, for example, who loved Twilight despite everything I told her bothered me about it, would also love this book, and she isn’t alone.
But, nonetheless, it’s not up to her to rate this thing, and so rate it I will: 5/10 stars. As much as the last bit of this one left a sour taste in my mouth, the first half of it was rather engaging and I didn’t dislike it. So, we’ll call it a 50/50. I’m good with those in this contest, it seems. It wasn’t for me, but it’s certainly going to be for someone. 🙂