Reading

ARC review | “The Summer of Chasing Mermaids” by Sarah Ockler

The-Summer-of-Chasing-Mermaids-by-Sarah-OcklerTitle: “The Summer of Chasing Mermaids”
Author: Sarah Ockler
Series: standalone
Publisher: Simon Pulse, Simon and Schuster
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Format: eARC via Edelweiss
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 

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 . . .

FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“The Summer of Chasing Mermaids” was my first book by Sarah Ockler. “#scandal” has been on my TBR for a while, but it was this one that screamed, “READ ME!” Or perhaps it was the fountain of positive reviews that had urged me to request an ARC in the first place.

Regardless, I’m so glad I read it.

Minor characters that are anything but minor

I think this is the first time I’ve ever decided to talk about the minor characters before the protagonist. I just can’t help it. “The Summer of Chasing Mermaids” features such a colorful cast of characters that adds so much to the story.

les miserables gavroche gif
Sebastian reminds me a bit of Gavroche with his intuitiveness and earnest attitude, but that might just be because I watched “Les Mis” recently.

My favorite character — and everyone else’s, I’m sure — is Sebastian, Christian’s absolutely adorable little brother. I’m such a sucker for books with a good sibling dynamic! Sebastian is so sweet and innocent, but he also has that earnest attitude and intuitiveness that only the youngest book characters seem capable of having. I also love the element of acceptance and understanding that he brought to the storyline. Hey, if a little boy wants to dress up like a mermaid, I say, “Bow down to your new mermaid queen!”

I also loved Elyse’s “adoptive” family, her “Aunt Lemon” and “cousin” Kirby. (Lemon’s read name is Ursula, but she’s nothing like the evil octopus lady in “The Little Mermaid.”) They’re incredibly supportive of Elyse, taking her in and showing her love but also giving her the space she needs. Lemon, Kirby and Elyse are a family in all the ways that it matters. By themselves, Lemon and Kirby are still great characters with personalities of their own, strong females surviving just fine on their own without Kirby’s father. I would love to visit Lemon’s shop to look at her sea glass sculptures and ask her for a tarot reading.

swimming animated GIF Christian’s best friend and rival in the Pirate Regatta, in which they race against each other, doesn’t make too many appearances, but I enjoyed seeing his friendship with Christian and his romance with Kirby, whom Christian nicknamed “Sleeping with the Enemy.” Plus his ship is called the “Never Flounder!”

Elyse and Christian

Sarah Ockler gets extra points for diversity. As much as I love Gwen Castle (“What I Thought Was True”) and Reagan O’Neill (“Open Road Summer”), it’s really nice finding a summer read with a protagonist who isn’t a white and American-born. Elyse is from Tobago, one of the “twin islands,” and her heritage brings a unique element to her story. I’ve always been more entranced by the beaches of Vietnam than South America, but Elyse’s reverence for her old home made me want to see her family’s resort, their cocoa plantation and Carnival season for myself.

Outside of her heritage, Elyse is such an interesting character to read about because, even though she has been both literally and figuratively silenced, her thoughts and narration show so much yearning and sadness. The  narration takes a few chapters to get used to but is beautiful, rhythmic and unique, written almost like a song.

“I didn’t even know her proper name. Queen of was all it said on the hull, once-gold letters peeling from the aqua blue fiberglass. Could’ve been the Queen of Hearts or the Queen of the Damned for all I knew. But there was something special about that emptiness, the unknown, the unsaid. Potential undefined. She was abandoned, a fate we shared, which made her the perfect hideaway.”

It was incredible seeing Elyse grow from this broken, sad girl to one who is brave, fierce and willing to defend the things and people she loves. Her story really proves that speaking up isn’t about how loud your voice is and that the worst silences are self-inflicted.

That being said, though I find Elyse inspiring, I didn’t quite feel a connection to her. I can’t quite explain this with words. I sympathized with her, was glued to the pages, but I still felt like I was reading her story. No matter how hard I tried to feel what she felt, like I was in the story beside her, I couldn’t.

After reading the synopsis, I worried that Christian would be too much of the “bad boy” archetype. Turns out, the synopsis misled me. The arrogant guy with a girl on each arm and not a care in the world I had imagined is noting like Christian. Yes, he’s a flirt, but he’s a genuinely nice guy. There’s no shame in liking to flirt as long as you aren’t going out of your way to hook ’em in and throw ’em out like trash — or worse, completely not caring what you’re doing to them. (In that way, I really like the realistic way teenage relationships are handled in this book.) He’s cocky in an endearing way, funny and hides a boat-load of father-induced anger and insecurity.

I really loved Christian and Elyse’s relationship. What started out as casual acquaintance turned into a warm friendship as they worked on Christian’s boat together. Their interactions are full of banter and flirting, but they also get each other to open up. When romance blooms, it’s expected but in the best way possible, every word and glance pulling them closer for pages and pages before that first kiss.

Their relationship isn’t all innocent (yes, I’m talking about sex), but it’s mature and, most importantly, realistic. Ockler makes it clear that their relationship is never just physical attraction, even from the first encounter; it’s based on friendship and trust. I’m not going to talk about my personal stance on teenage sex, but I would like to compliment the author for writing a book that neither makes it seem like a necessary part of a “normal” relationship nor demeans females who want it.


Bottom line

 

The characters in “The Summer of Chasing Mermaids” are what make it a truly amazing read. The full cast of characters is unique and fun with individual quirks that add to the story, especially Sebastian. The romance is spot-on and the love interest absolutely charming. The narration is poetic and beautiful.

While I didn’t quite connect with Elyse, her story is inspiring and full of personal growth. It gives new meaning to having a voice and using it.

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