Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Whenever you hear “this is the perfect beach/summer read!”, you probably think that the book is cute & fluffy, light, and perhaps funny. Well let me tell you: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler is, in fact, a perfect beach and summer read, but it is in no way cute in the fluffy way, light, or funny. Contrarily, it is thoughtful, beautiful, and important. Not only does Ockler craft a gorgeous setting in an Oregon seaside town, but she also carries a significant message that will resonate with her readers long after the last page is flipped. As my first go with Sarah Ockler’s books, I can happily say I’ll be coming back for more because of the way The Summer of Chasing Mermaids succeeded in impressing me.
Perhaps the most striking quality in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is the setting. Set in Atargatis Cove, an obscure seaside town in Oregon, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids sets a tone where it is a comfortable, tightly-knit community, and quaint. Ockler’s descriptions are vivid and lyrical, placing the reader right in the seaside town alongside the characters.
Since this story is told from a girl who loses her voice, readers get a lot of internal dialogue and detailed observations of her surroundings. This made the beginning a little slow to get into, since the imagery is heavy because of the way she does not partake in dialogue. However, Elyse’s voice really grew on me as she emotes and communicates through writing. Her words are poetic and are similar to music lyrics, which I really enjoyed. Her interactions with the other characters are unique and realistic, yet also astonishing because of the fact that she can’t speak verbally. The effort is strenuous, yet she is able to accomplish this- even to develop a romantic relationship with the most notoriously flirty boy in town who ends up assisting her in her personal growth.
My only drawbacks within this novel are Elyse’s girl friends that are supposed to be supporting her. The two girls are Vanessa and Kirby, both friendly to open their arms to Elyse when she first moves to Oregon from the Caribbean. I don’t feel that Vanessa and Kirby are entirely loyal and meaningful friends. Rather, Elyse found herself more with the help of the love interest and his younger brother. I would have been more satisfied if Vanessa and Kirby are not as integrated into Elyse’s story since they aren’t well-developed as positive figures in Elyse’s life.
Of course, there is the mermaid aspect in this story that is quite central to Elyse’s dark past. In Atargatis Cove, there is the old tale about the Atargatis mermaid, and while Elyse sees the mermaid out at sea during her hallucinations, readers don’t actually know if the mermaid is real – and I love that about the story. Ockler certainly adds a sprinkle of magical realism to the story, making The Summer of Chasing Mermaids all the more mystical.
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is a quiet, beautiful story that is certainly set in the summertime and at the beach, but in no way one to be taken lightly and to forget in a week’s time. Ockler’s skill in creating an intelligent girl with no voice speaks volumes with how she eventually grows by surrounding herself with the right people and braving her past. I loved my first book by Sarah Ockler, and I highly recommend this book to readers who are patient, enjoy books set in seaside towns, and are in for a story about growth, love, and mermaids.