The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Expected Publication: June 2nd, 2015 by Simon Pulse
*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinions in any way.
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 . . .
If you guys know me, you know I'm generally a fantasy reader. But I've been a longtime fan of Sarah Ockler. She's one of the two contemporary writers that I absolutely always read. (And, in fact, after reading The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, I've decided I need to somehow carve out time this summer for rereads of all her books, because I AM AN EMOTIONAL MESS. And I actually still haven't read #scandal. FOR SHAME.) This was a hard review to write, because no matter what I say, I don't think I can really do this book justice.
Elyse d'Abreau, our incredible POC narrator, once lived on the island of Tobago. She and her twin were stars. They were going places. Now, Elyse has moved in with Lemon (whose name is actually Ursula) and Kirby in the states, unable to face her family and her past life now that she no longer has any voice. Music was her life. Her sister was her life. And now both are essentially gone. So she writes her words and her songs on paper and walls. She doesn't try to communicate very often because people quickly give up on trying to understand her, and it's heartbreaking to experience. The tremendous growth she experiences in this novel is the absolute best part. She comes to realize that she can still fight, still be heard even if her vocal cords no longer work. She hasn't truly lost her voice.
I felt for Elyse SO HARD. I just wanted her to be happy so badly that it hurt. She is a phenomenal character, and it was so interesting to read about someone who can't speak, which is something I don't think I've done before. In addition, through her eyes, you get to see a bit of a completely different culture that I didn't know a thing about.
And the thing about Elyse is that she was so easy for me to connect to. If you've read some of my posts in the last month, you know that I find it incredibly hard to speak up. I can't handle confrontation so instead I stay silent. I feel like no one is listening so instead I say silent. I have been discouraged from speaking my mind so often that I barely try anymore. And it goes on and on and on, more and more excuses. And so I saw a lot of myself in Elyse, even though we are so very different people. I really hope you guys love her.
Elyse meets Christian when he stumbles upon her writing on the walls in his boat, which has become her sanctuary, her hide-out. (Of course, that was when she thought it was abandoned...) Christian is not your typical cardboard cutout arrogant flirt; he's real, he's sweet, he never treats Elyse as anything but herself. He believes in her. They both share this love of the sea, have it in their bones. He's not perfect, but he's perfect for Elyse. And his relationship with his little brother, Sebastian, is purely adorable. (Everything about Sebastian is adorable. Watching Elyse with him was adorable. AND I DON'T EVEN LIKE KIDS.) Christian and Elyse work together to save the Cove, to save the people that live there and call it their home, and along the way, they both learn to speak up. It was so refreshing to see such a healthy relationship, and bonus - no silly miscommunication that leaves them angsting for half the book. It was, to put it simply, a beautiful romance, fit for two beautiful characters.
And the writing. THE WRITING. I will admit that it bogged me down a little bit in the same way that I remember Shatter Me did, where sometimes I just couldn't connect the words to what was being said. Sarah Ockler and Elyse both appear to be very poetic people, and that did leave me a bit confused at times. But I would say that's just me. Otherwise, the writing was absolutely gorgeous. It's just not the kind of prose you can rush through. The way the sea is described left me speechless. The way Elyse's thoughts are put into words written on hands and papers and walls is nothing short of magical.
"But unlike those fairy-tale girls, love didn't save me; it changed me. Changed me into someone who could save myself."
And then, of course, there's simply the premise of the novel. A teenage singer from a rarely written about culture who loses her voice, leaving us with a protagonist who can't speak. The mermaid lore intricately woven into the story. Every single bit of this story was unique, unlike anything I've read.
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids doesn't end with a beautifully wrapped bow. There's still a lot of things left unresolved with Elyse and her family. And personally, I found this to be perfect. You can't heal all those kinds of wounds within the span of three months. What's important is how much Elyse grew, how you can tell that one day, she's going to get there. It's not an easy or quick process, it never is, and I think this rang completely true to real life.
Overall: I could go on and on about this book and still never do right by it. Ultimately, it is an incredibly unique and heartfelt story with characters that immediately wormed their ways into my heart. With gorgeous prose, tremendous character growth, and a seaside setting that had me yearning for a quiet beach, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is a contemporary you can't miss out on this summer. (Seriously. I'm going to shove it in your faces for the entire summer. THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS MADE ME SOB LIKE A BABY. I'm not kidding.) 5 stars.
Music is obviously a very important thing in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids. It was once Elyse's entire life, along with her family. While the music I chose is absolutely nothing like what Elyse sang or listened to, I chose each and every song very carefully because I feel they represent important parts of the novel - to me. It's funny, because we all interpret both books and music so differently, so some of these probably won't make any sense to anyone but me. And once again, there's no way I did this book justice. But without further ado:
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Be sure to stop by the other blogs if you haven't - Andi's ABCs, Novel Novice, Elizziebooks at 3pm EST, Words Like Silver at 4, BookCrushin at 5, and finally, The Perpetual Page Turner at 6 for a reveal of the first two chapters! Also, GIVEAWAYS ABOUND.
Thanks for stopping by! Also, go buy all of Sarah's books and cry about them with me.