[Review] The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

The Summer of Chasing MermaidsThe Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Series: None
Publication : June 2nd, 2015 by Simon Pulse
Number of Pages: 399
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Source: PulseIt’s Weekly Full Read
Rating: ★★★★

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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…


I wasn’t going to read this book. I was too quick to judge the cover and the odd name it had. I’d never read an Ockler book but I was pretty sure that the first one I’d read would be 20 Boy Summer. I was very wrong.

There was a lot of hype for this book. I’d read multiple positive reviews for the book and then it was the featured full read on PulseIt. I felt like it was telling me that I had to read the book then.

Well I finished it in one sitting 🙂

I really, really liked this book. It’s a very loose Little Mermaid retelling. I loved that Ockler took the fairy tale and turned it into something that ultimately had a huge overlying theme.

A lot of people fawned over how gorgeous Ockler’s writing was. I too, am one of those people. However, what I want to highlight in my review, is the fantastic message that she wanted to tell us. We’re pretty much smacked in the face with this message but it’s done in the best way possible. In her Acknowledgements/Author’s Note at the very end, Ockler wrote this:

As Elyse discovers, there are so many ways to lose one’s voice. Elyse’s initial loss is literal, but she comes to know and care for people who’ve experienced all kinds of silencing, both subtle and forceful, both accidental and purposeful.
The intentions and methods by which people silence one another may be wildly different, but the outcome is always the same: someone’s voice goes unheard.
So, for anyone who has ever been hushed, shushed, shut down, shut up, shut out, shut off, cut off, flamed, shamed, silenced, suppressed, oppressed, dismissed, disempowered, discouraged, disrespected, rejected, ignored, intimidated, talked over, talked at, denied, cast aside, outshouted, outvoted, overlooked, unnoticed, unheard, or unacknowledged in any way: this is your acknowledgement, whenever you need it. I wrote this story for you and because of you. Know that you’re not invisible. Know that your voice matters. And know that there are people out there who want and need to hear that beautiful voice of yours, whenever you’re ready, however you’re able to express it.
Believe in you. I do.

I literally adore what Ockler has told readers with this book. This is exactly the type of diverse books that the YA industry needs. Ones that don’t just use diverse concepts but turn these real people into living, breathing characters that we can relate to.

Elyse’s character is very complicated. She’s lost her identity in the form of her voice. Her character growth throughout the book is phenomenal. It’s intricate, raw, and rewarding. We get to see her relearn what it means to have a voice, have confidence, and stand up for what she believes in. The book could have easily fallen into the category of heavy issue contemporary (and in a lot of parts, it almost did) but her overall growth as a character was so prominent that her angsty emotions in the beginning of the novel are no more than a whisper by the end. I loved seeing her grow.

The other characters, Christian, Sebastian, Lemon, Kirby, Victoria, are each well developed. I never really grew to love Christian as the love interest, but I could definitely see the chemistry he had with Elyse. They fixed each other (sounds so cliche but it’s actually very beautiful) and show so many examples of why they could be such a strong couple. Their relationship is very sex positive (the entire book is) and it doesn’t portray either of them as being “slutty” characters. There isn’t any of that dumb crap that having sex as a teenager makes a character a whore. There’s even a female masturbation scene! Ockler didn’t hesitate to include these in a rich, organic method that made the romance even stronger.

One of my favorite things about the book is that Ockler represented so many different people. Elyse is a Tobagonian character. Sebastian, Christian’s younger brother is a nontraditional male character that likes traditionally “girly” things. I really like that Ockler put so many different types of personalities and characters into this book.

(Side tangent: I really hated reading a review that labelled Sebastian as being “gay”. Nowhere in the book does it state that Sebastian is gay. Just because he likes traditionally “girly” things like mermaids or wants to dress up as a mermaid does not mean that he is gay. Doing so would imply that I’m lesbian. I like certain male styles of clothing and would shop in the men’s section if any of the stuff would fit me. I like skulls. That doesn’t mean I’m lesbian! Sebastian likes mermaids but until Ockler confirms that he is gay or straight, I will assume that I don’t know what his sexuality truly is. I’m not saying that it would be bad if he was gay. I just didn’t like that that reviewer thought that a guy would immediately be gay because he liked mermaids.)

Overall the plot itself was unique. This is a very different summery contemporary that is incredibly re-readable. I can see myself rereading this next summer and the summers following. I liked how Elyse ended up playing a large role in the ending of the book, which by the way, is very open to interpretation. To be honest, I think it was unrealistic to have it end the way it did. But it also supports the moral of the story. That is that everyone can have a voice if they try.

I’d like to think that the town and people end up happy though. 🙂

The only thing I could realistically complain about would be that I found Elyse a little too bitter at times. As much as I love her character, sometimes she seemed too distant and bitter for me to really connect with her. Even at the end, when we finally learn the reason that she lost her voice, I couldn’t get why she was that upset. I understand that singing was her dream but there’s a reason that teachers tell you to have a backup career to sports or entertainment. Her listless state seemed a little too overly dramatic for me.

Also, one last thing. I have a love-hate relationship with this cover. I love the design. I think it’s gorgeous and gives readers that summery feel. I especially love how the model is of the right skin color. But I also don’t like that the cover makes the book seem like it’s “just another summer romance novel”. It makes it look so much more shallow than it really is.

I have so much love for this novel. It’s really freaking good. I’m extremely happy that I got to read it off of PulseIt because it was good. Brb let me go add this novel to my list of books to buy in the future.
In retrospect, the oddball title of the book suits it perfectly. I guess this is another reminder that I shouldn’t judge books by their covers.


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