Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Enchantingly magical
So I got a signed copy of Mermaid in Chelsea Creek at BookExpo America and just read it this past week. I really wish I hadn't waited so long to finally read it because it was fantastic.
Number one on the list of reasons why this book is phenomenal is the diction. I can't even begin to explain how much I was entranced by Michelle Tea's writing style. It was b-e-a-utiful. I found myself, instead of reading a chapter or two and going on to something else, sitting there and devouring the book until all of a sudden I reached the hard blue back cover. Just like Sophie's pass-out shenanigans, it felt like I had sat down only ten minutes ago, only to realize it had been two hours and the book was finished. There is no word that can accurately depict the wondrous writing of this novel. I really liked that, even though it follows the journey of a thirteen year old, the writing doesn't sound immature or choppy. Instead, Michelle Tea manages to mix in the childlike innocence of her main character with a fluid, elegant writing style that just kept me turning page after page, not only wanting to find out what happened next but wanting to keep reading the sweet, melodic narration. There were so many awesome gems that picking a few to prove my point is really hard, because I want to just keep quoting paragraphs and pages and essentially the whole book. However, copying the entire book into a blog post might be copyright infringement so here are some of the beautiful lines in this book:
"It was a piece of glass, a blue so faint it was like the thought of blue, the very beginning of the color. Caught inside its frosted center was a scalloped seashell, white with a stripe of rose at the bottom base, like the last glow of an excellent sunset before it sank into the sky."
"Sophie felt, feelings like a black wave risen from the middle of the ocean and then crashing down on her, crushing her, pounding the air from her lungs until all that she breathed, all that filled her was an infinity of pain."
"The problem with feelings was, first you had one, which was generally bad enough. But then you had a feeling about your feeling, and then a feeling about how your were feeling about your feeling, and then another feeling would pop up at the sight of it all, this teetering pyramid of emotion, and all of it would look wrong to Andrea, all her feelings somehow incorrect, too much or too little, too soft or too hard, and another feeling would emerge at the thought of that. It was endless, having feelings."I hope all of you reading this appreciate how hard it was to pick just a few quotes when this whole novel is written in such a lovely manner. If picking a place to start quoting wasn't hard enough, it was near impossible to find where to end it. I also mentioned some more of what I loved about the writing style in my Stuffed Animal Saturday, so check that out and read another gem, this time from the prologue.
Okay, now that I'm done gushing about the writing style, I can get on with mentioning what else I loved about this book. Like the fact that she did a phenomenal job with the characters and the city of Chelsea itself. The whole book had sort of a gritty feel to it -- the pretty words and pretty girls were a sort of glamour for the real truth of the world they lived in. And the characters felt so real. There's Sophie, our protagonist, who I absolutely loved. I loved how she was so open to everything that happened to her. Instead of thinking she's going insane, or that she's hallucinating, Sophie thinks "I don't think I'm crazy, but you got to admit all this is pretty seriously crazy." I also loved the way she tackled her situation and handled everything that was thrown at her. The best part was that she felt like an actual honest-to-goodness thirteen year old. I've noticed that sometimes in these types of novels, teenagers are written as either overly mature (and boring) or overly childish (and irritating). Tea captured the the mix of maturity and innocence that comes with being 13. Overall, I really liked how Sophie grew and matured. I also loved reading about the other characters. I found Ella, Sophie's best friend, particularly interesting, because of her extreme germaphobia. It was so fascinating reading about how she scrubbed her legs so raw they hurt to touch or how she "drank half a pint of mouthwash. The liquid had seared a groove down her throat and into her guts and quickly retraced its steps, heaving out from her mouth and into the sink." The whole cast of characters is made up of peculiar and remarkable individuals, like the lovable Angel, the evil Kishka, the wise Livia, and especially the strange, rough mermaid who has traveled so very far for Sophie. Chelsea is a town with lots of secrets, and with every one I uncovered by reading, I wanted more.
A book can have great writing and characters, but it'll fall short if it doesn't have a good plot. I am delighted to say that Mermaid in Chelsea Creek definitely delivered in the plot department. The story was so gripping and throughout it all, I wanted to know more about what Sophie could do, more about what was at stake, more about what exactly she was saving Chelsea from. And Michelle Tea gave quite interesting answers to those questions. The plot kept moving quickly, as Sophie learned more about what her destiny was.
Overall, I thought this book was spectacular. It's a short read but definitely an impactful one. Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, with its witty dialogue and enchanting writing left me impatiently craving the next book in the trilogy. (It also left me craving salt, but you'll know why that is once you read the book.)
How would you react if you saw a mermaid cursing at you in a creek?
Let us know in the comments!