Title: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
Author: Sarah Ockler
Release date: June 2nd, 2015 by Simon Pulse
Genre: young adult, contemporary, romance
Rating: ★★★★★ – 5/5 stars
Synopsis: 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.
I received this book from the publisher -via Edelweiss- in exchange for a review. This does not influence my opinion in any way. The Bookdepository link provided above is an affiliate link.
Before I requested this book, I had read exactly one Sarah Ockler book, The Book of Broken Hearts. I really did enjoy that one but I feel like The Summer of Chasing Mermaids was on a whole other level! That one was published in 2013 so I figure Sarah Ockler has grown so much as an author in 2 years! I already enjoyed The Book of Broken Hearts a lot, so you can imagine how I feel about this one.
I’ve read quite a few young adult contemporaries and sometimes when I read another one, I just feel “meh” about it. Like I’ve read the story before… It’s never exactly the same, but it feels like a déjà vu. Have any of you ever had that? This book was the total opposite of it. I’ve read novels before where the main character loses their future but it still felt so unique and different to me. The first thing you need to know is that Elyse is the youngest -sort of- of 6 sisters. Her mom died at birth, lost to the sea, and so she and her sisters have been living with their Granna ever since. She owns a cocoa plantation/resort in Tobago and they are RICH. Elyse has a twin sister, Natalie, and they have always envisioned one future for themselves: touring around the world, singing. They have wonderful voices on their own, but the harmonization between them is priceless. Then something happens to Elyse at sea and she loses everything. Her voice, which means everything she has ever been and wanted to be.
So she moves from Tobago to Oregon to try and come to terms with everything she has lost. The first aspect I really enjoyed was Elyse, the main character. She is very different -especially in background and culture- than any other main characters I’ve read. She was raised in Tobago, a country and culture I really know nothing about. So it was very interesting to learn about her life there! The Carnival that was so dear to her heart, the climate, the traditional foods, etc. I loved it all. Plus, I really want to visit the twin islands now! And reading about the Cove, where Elyse stays during the actual story, was wonderful as well! It just all seems so peaceful.
Let’s talk about the main characters a bit. First up: Elyse. I honestly felt so bad for her. To lose the thing you define yourself by must be excruciating. And to see her twin sister, who still has everything she has lost, has to be bittersweet. Because of course Elyse loves her and wants all the best for her, but on the other hand, how can she be happy for her? It must hurt so much. And while she does isolate herself and wallow -because let’s be honest, we all would- she meets new people and makes new friends as well. She lives with Lemon and her daughter Kirby. Lemon is Elyse’s aunt and one of the residents of the Cove. I loved ALL of the characters for different reasons. Except Mr. Kane. Him, I kind of hate/intensely dislike.
In my opinion, Elyse is such a strong person. She has lost so much dear to her but doesn’t -completely- break down. She does shut people out and has a VERY hard time accepting what she has lost. But I honestly loved her character. Because she can’t talk, she communicates by giving looks and writing down what she wants to say. The most interesting part about this is that often, when she writes her thoughts down they come out as poems. Isn’t that incredible? Anyway, I definitely enjoyed her character development and even though I sometimes didn’t understand her way of thinking, it always seemed interesting to me.
Then there is Christian -not Chris. How I adore him. I don’t really want to tell you too much about him because that would make reading it less fun. What I will tell you however is that he adores his little brother, his friends and sailing. And that he is trying to figure out what on earth he wants out of life. And I can’t not talk about Sebastian, Christian’s little brother. THAT KID IS SO ADORABLE. Sebastian believes in mermaids, and what better place to search for them than at the Cove? I absolutely loved him.
There are so many other characters I absolutely loved as well. Vanessa, because I never really know what to make of her, Kirby, because she genuinely tries to help Elyse in ever way she can, Lemon, because she is a totally awesome witch, etc. This book is definitely character-driven.
As I have mentioned before, Elyse lives with her aunt, Lemon, and her daughter Kirby. But developers want to buy most of the property, which will basically turn the place into the typical tourist trap instead of the quiet and beautiful place it is now. Plus, a lot of people would lose their homes and incomes. In the beginning of the book, Mr. Kane -Christian’s dad- and the mayor, Mr. Katz I believe -Noah’s dad- make a wager. If Christian wins the sailing race called the Pirate Regatta, Noah will have to give his beloved boat to Christian. If he loses however, Mr. Kane will sell his property to the developers. Noah and Christian are best friends and have always done the race together. Now however, they have to race each other and the stakes are VERY high.
I hated that two people could make a bet out of arrogance that could/would lead to so many people they knew losing their homes. How can anyone make a decision like that? There’s a quote from this book -from Elyse- that makes me think of those poor people, who can’t do anything but helplessly watch and hope Christian wins the race.
Behind its protective seashell, the starfish scar on my throat burned. There were lots of ways to lose your voice.
And while the romance is kind of important to the story, I felt like the author made Elyse’s “mental journey” the focal point -as it should be. There is still an awesome romance present, but it’s also about rediscovering yourself, about friends and family, about acceptance and finding out what you want from life.
I would HIGHLY recommend this book. I absolutely loved it. Besides it being an adorable romance, it has some other important elements to it, as I mentioned above. I will leave you with two more quotes I have taken from the acknowledgments, that I absolutely adored.
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.
I wrote this story for and because of you. Know that you are not invisible. Know that you matter. 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.
With respect and admiration,