At least that’s what Auntie tells Clara when she asks if there is a way that they can save her sister, Maren, from becoming a mermaid. And indeed, Maren seems happy about her transformation, and longs only to be taken to the sea, so that she can join the other merfolk in their watery home. It is Clara, and their friend O’Niell, who desire to change Maren into something she is not. But when Maren rapidly transforms into a mermaid, it falls on Clara and O’Niell to deliver her to the ocean, so that she can embrace her true identity. Similarly, Clara will have to embrace her role as the Mermaid’s Sister, and a life without Maren by her side. Whereas O’Neill will have to learn that he cannot save Maren from her nature, as much as her might like to.
One of the things I loved about this book, is how richly developed the characters were. Clara is the perfect sister, and the perfect lady. She is loyal to Maren in all ways, tending to her physical comfort, and stepping back from her own feelings towards O’Neill, when she discovers that her sister loves him as well. She is also unfailingly kind, and polite. All she lacks is confidence, and an awareness of her own allure (you can’t really blame her though, with a mermaid for a sister!). Meanwhile, Maren is head-strong and bratty, but also loving at times. Her desire to return to the sea is all consuming, leaving little room for her to worry about the needs of others. Anyone who has ever been a teenage girl will likely see themselves in Maren, and the teenage girl they would have liked to be in Clara. Finally, O’Neill is witty, intriguing and chivalrous. He holds his secrets close to his heart, while fighting to provide a happy ending for Clara and Maren. In the end, he is the most surprising and satisfying character of them all.
Other things I loved about this book were the surprising plot twists caused by the appearance of the novel’s villains, charlatans masquerading as traveling healers and purveyors of wonders. They were so vile, that I actually felt physical anger towards them on several occasions. It takes a strong author to evoke that level of emotion in a reader, so hats off to Carrie Anne Noble! The darkness that they brought to the story was an excellent counterpoint to the whimsy surrounding the existence of mermaids and a teenage love triangle.
The Mermaid’s Sister won Amazon’s 2014 Breakthrough Novel (Young Adult Fiction category) award with good reason: it is fast-faced, whimsical, and heart-warming. It is a great coming of age story, but it was written in such a way that readers of all ages can enjoy it. The tale of the Mermaid’s Sister includes jealousy, love, intrigue, and magic…while also serving as an allegory for the importance of being true to yourself, accepting people as they are, and chasing your dreams. This is a book that I have already recommended to my students and friends…and now to all of you! After all, with the summer quickly approaching, what better beach read could there be, than one about mermaids?