Even as I try to decide what I wish to say in my review, my head is full of the thoughts and emotions this story generated. I love the backdrop, the characters, and the plot.
This is a YA fantasy novel about a girl who is sent to live with her father's sister when his work takes him to Afghanistan for a year. Reluctantly, she leaves the city life of San Francisco for the quiet coastal town of life with her aunt and cousin. Almost on arrival, inexplicable things begin to happen to Marina. She has an affinity for the sea and meets a mermaid who bares a striking resemblance to her. The meeting with Lorelai the mermaid is the catalyst of change even more than her move. Marina has to begin living two lives. There is her public life of settling in with her misfit relations and her new school and her secret life where the call of the mermaids grows stronger with each day.
I loved the characters in Marina's story from her fabulous neighbor and friend cum fairy godmother who she calls Aunt Evie, her quirky high on life Aunt Abby, her cousin Cruz who dreams of designing fabulous clothes for the runway, Cruz's talented musician friend Megan, mysterious and wise Lue Khang, Ethan who has more to him than his looks and surfing talent, and the intriguing mermaid Lorelai. These are not cardboard, cookie cutter characters. Even the mean girl has a depth to her that was interesting to read.
The plot kept my attention as it wove around Marina's adventures with new relationships and her first time living as a typical teen to her more clandestine adventures learning the secret of her other life as abilities and yearnings start to surface. I thought it wonderful that the author wove daily life experiences in with fantasy so that the story was balanced.
I found the voice of the story fascinating with that underlying haunting bittersweet tone to it. Fun and laughter happen, but below the surface there is always that other feeling leading up to that inevitable climax of the story and the choice Marina must make.
There was only one aspect of the story that bothered me, but not enough to ruin it. This was told from Marina's Point of View so as the reader I really got to know her. There were two aspects of her character that put me off: I found her annoying on a few occasions in the middle of the story. It's possible I was expecting too much based on what she was going through, but her repeated 'I gotta go it alone and keep my secrets' mentality in the face of empirical evidence that she was not doing so hot at that and always needed rescuing by Ethan and her friends irritated me. It also particularly irritated me because I didn't like that it was her willful thoughtless behavior including lying and breaking promises to everyone that caused trouble, but yet she was the one angry and hurt in feelings after they called her on this behavior. I know I'm being vague by not providing examples, but I didn't want to give spoilers. As I said, it wasn't bothersome enough to truly destroy my enjoyment of the story just a peeve of mine.
I think this is a great book that I'll recommend to all who love a good YA fantasy and want a change of pace from the vamps, shifters, and angels.
(reviewed 6 months after purchase)