The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
From the bestselling author of Twenty Boy Summer, a talented singer loses her ability to speak after a tragic accident, leading her to a postcard-perfect seaside town to find romance.
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 . . .
What I Liked:
Awww, boo, a Sarah Ockler book I didn't completely love. Granted, I've only read The Book of Broken Hearts and #scandal (and now this book), but that's a pretty good sample, right? I loved The Book of Broken Hearts, and really enjoyed #scandal, Believe me, I thought I would love this one! I thought it was just okay. It's certainly unique, but it didn't grab me, throughout the story.
Fun fact about me: I'm Trinidadian Indian. My parents were born and lived in Trinidad for most of their lives, and then came to the U.S. in the late eighties. Both sides of my family has lived in Trinidad for several generations - I think my great-grandparents came from India (on both sides) through slave trading back when Britain had possession of India and parts of the West Indies (if I'm getting my history correct). I've been to Trinidad, and Tobago, many times. I wanted that personal connection with this book, because Trinidadian is rooted in me - it's a part of me. We are rare and unique, and you'll never forget a Trinidadian once you meet one. I didn't connect with this connection as much as I'd like, and I blame the authenticity the author tries to present. But let's get to this review.
Months ago, something happened to Elyse, a terrible accident at sea involving her twin sister Natalie, resulting in the loss of Elyse's voice. No longer able to talk, let along sing with her sister, Elyse flees to a seaside town in Oregon. Christian Kane, a player and handsome sailor, is spending the summer sailing and enjoying his time from his first year at Stanford. When Elyse agrees to be Christian's first mate on a ship Elyse used to hide in, she's thinking of the town, of a bet the mayor and Christian's father made. Neither she nor Christian expect to fall for each other. Elyse doesn't know if she'll be able to be in open sea again, if she is strong enough to move forward from her past.
Like I said - I think I enjoyed this book? I certainly finished the book, and was not going to not finish it (always a good sign). Ockler always writes a good story and a great romance, and I especially liked the romance. But there is a complex and intriguing story, and I'm not only talking about Elyse's past.
The book is told in a way that we have no idea what happened to Elyse. All we know is that she has no ability to speak anymore, there was some sort of accident, and her twin sister was somehow involved. Everyone treats her like she's broken or a cause or charity... except for Christian Kane. He's never really acted like he's feeling sorry for her. He just sees her.
Christian and Elyse connect for the moment they lay eyes on each other. Elyse knows that Christian has a string of girls behind him, but she's attracted to him. Elyse is obviously quiet, but she's a girl that isn't throwing herself at Christian, and she's a difficult person to read in general. Christian and Elyse are friends, and then Christian asks Elyse to be his first mate on the Queen of. They're friends... until they're something more.
The progression of Christian and Elyse's relationship is really sweet! I think the romance was my favorite part of the book. That and Elyse's relationship with Sebastian, Christian's younger brother. I didn't really get a feel for his age but he must be really young? Probably ten years old or younger. Anyway, the romance. Christian and Elyse don't fall for each other from the start, though they do notice each other immediately. I like that they are friends first, and then the physical nature of their relationship changes.
I can't think of anything else specifically to say, so I shall move on to the next section!
What I Did Not Like:
I had a few issues with this book, and they were big enough for me to take down my rating some. I wasn't really feeling the tragic-past-story thing that Elyse has going on. I know, that sounds really callous and harsh. Thing is, I'm not a huge fan of tough-issue contemporary novels. It's just not my type of read. I don't like reading about such heartbreaking and severe issues that others have. I don't enjoy reading about these topics, so... I don't. It was hard for me to sit through this book, knowing that some deep dark secret was to be revealed about Elyse. For several reasons.
One reason I generally don't like tough-issue contemporary novels, and specifically in this book, is because the protagonist spends the majority of the book feeling sorry for herself. This book is no exception. Look. I get it. She went through something traumatizing, she's not past it and she hasn't gotten over it and she isn't willing to let go, etc. I do understand this. But again - I don't necessarily like reading about characters that mope or are depressed or are feeling sorry for themselves. So if you don't either... you are warned.
I wasn't entirely sucked into this book. Sure, it's unique and interesting, a retelling/story based off The Little Mermaid. The protagonist can't speak. But this book was weird, and I wasn't really impressed. It's entirely contemporary, but there's this element of almost magic. Mermaids are a huge part of this book, so it almost seems like there a magical part of this book. I wasn't really buying it, so you can imagine my overall not-amused attitude. I wasn't captivated by this magical aspect.
I didn't think Ockler did the absolute best job of capturing Tobago and Tobagonians. This book takes place entirely in Oregon, so I guess she felt like she didn't have to? You could see Ockler attempting to write out Trinidadian/Tobagonian speech, like spelling girl as "gyal". But that's really the only attempt she made at capturing the language. Trust me - Trinidadians and Tobagonians do NOT speak in proper sentences with fancy English and contractions and grammar. Noooo. We're native English speakers but the dragged-up English is very, very different. No, we do NOT sound like Jamaicans. The Trinidadian accent is very different from any other country, Caribbean or otherwise.
In any case, I personally didn't feel the authenticity of Trinidad and/or Tobago. I doubt anyone else will notice this because how many Trinidadian/Tobagonian readers of YA are there? Probably not too many, and I'm sure they'll notice the lack of complete authenticity in this book's structure.
The story isn't interesting, as I mentioned, and towards the end, it started to get really cliche, in terms of the Pirate Regatta. I had to roll my eyes at the cheesiness of the climax and ending. Let's go save the world! The town! One teen with no voice can do it! On paper it sounds absurd - and in the book, it was equally as absurd. Honestly. You have to read the book to know what I'm talking about, but ugh! I highly doubt, when it comes to money, that large companies really care about... things.
I think that's all I can think of. A few issues, but big ones.
Would I Recommend It:
Eh. Not really? Another meh book - I'm on a meh streak! I liked the two books of Ockler's that I mentioned above! Try those. But this one didn't impress me. I know some others have read this book and enjoyed it, but I didn't think it was all that great. It was okay though.
3 stars. I liked it but wouldn't read it again, or recommend it. I'll definitely be reading more of Ockler's books in the future though! I love how she writes romance.
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