Hello and welcome to Rhea’s Neon Journal! Sarah Ockler’s The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is nothing less than one of the most important books I’ve read for teens everywhere! It’s a complete delight and my favorite book of the month! Go ahead and read why YOU should be reading this book right now 🙂 You can follow the rest of the tour here.
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…
Very often, these days, we’re talking about Quiet YA. While everyone seems to have their own interpretation of the term, most will agree that Quiet YA refers to the underdogs. The books that need more attention and fly under the radar. Maybe this is what the term was supposed to mean when it was initially coined. But I’d like to take that one step further.
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, to me, was Quiet YA. I can’t talk about how well the book is doing in the market, or the response it’s garnering with its intended audience, or whether or not it has been under appreciated. I can, however, talk about how it just snuck up on me, quietly, armed with its crew of loveable, fantastic characters and beautiful imagery and completely took my breath away. And I can talk about how this book made me feel things I’m pretty sure are going to stay with me for a long, long time.
Elyse d’Abreau was made to sing. She lives and breathes music, and her beautiful voice is what makes her her. When a freak accident takes that away from her, she leaves her home Tobago, and takes up her friend’s offer to move to Atargatis Cove in Oregon. There she begins to find her inner voice, and love, and rediscovers her first love—the ocean. And of course, she learns all about mermaids, and particularly, Atargatis. But more importantly, she learns all about who she is. The underlying message in the novel was simple—Who is Elyse d’Abreau? What is she without her beautiful singing voice? When will she go back to being the Elyse from before the accident?
I never imagined I’d fall in love with Elyse and her story the way I did. Her pain, her challenges, hell, her entire journey was difficult to read. Difficult and heartbreaking and sad. Add to this the fact that she was so extraordinarily smart and observant, I was a true goner within the first 10% of the book. Her thoughts and dreams and ambitions were so real and true and heartfelt, by the end of the book, I felt truly privileged to have read the book. I will admit—she was a recluse for most of the book. She sought quiet places to escape the lingering stares and the expressions of pity and that made me want to tear my heart out. It felt like she was silenced not only literally, but also in a way that took away her every way of expressing her heart.
Of course, the romance angle was one that I was particularly curious about. In the beginning, when I just started getting used to Elyse and her unique way of watching people around her, it seemed foolish to take the rich playboy angle that the author seemed to have taken. And yet, as I came to read the way Elyse saw Christian Kane, saw his goodness and kindness, just as she saw his wicked smiles and flirty nature, I began to change my mind. First impressions never last, after all, and what better example of this than Elyse herself. By the time they started to get along with each other, I was shipping Christian and Elyse harder than Christian and Elyse themselves, and it was brilliant and amazing and fulfilling.
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is chock full of characters that you want to hug and just never let go. There’s Kirby, Elyse’s friend and her mother Lemon, with whom Elyse stayed in Oregon. Vanessa, who was probably my favourite “feminist killjoy” and the best supporting character I’ve read in a long, long time. And there was Sebastian Kane, who is a type of kid that you have to read in order to experience! All these people pushed Elyse to rediscover herself, find herself, and ultimately stand up to being where she belonged. Without them, the book would be incomplete and Elyse would never be what she was by the end of the book.
The book is culturally diverse and that just made it more impactful, somehow. It touched on topics like politics, sexism, the belief that women should be seen, not heard, and does so with an ease and delicacy that leaves you feeling not enraged, but thoughtful. Sarah Ockler’s writing has what I can only call a gentle touch—the kind that makes you feel at peace and hopeful for and with characters that feel like they’ve taken up permanent residency in your heart.
I could go on and on about this book, especially since it seems to me that I’ve left a barrage of other things I’d like to talk about but SPOILERS so I’d rather not. I can’t recommend this book highly enough—especially since I, for one, will inevitably find myself visiting this wonder of a book again and again and again.
Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of six young adult novels: Twenty Boy Summer, Fixing Delilah, Bittersweet, The Book of Broken Hearts, #scandal, and The Summer of Chasing Mermaids. Her books have been translated into several languages and have received numerous accolades, including ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Girls’ Life Top 100 Must Reads, Indie Next List, Amazon Top Movers and Shakers, and nominations for YALSA Teens’ Top Ten and NPR’s Top 100 Teen Books. Her short work has appeared in the anthologies Dear Teen Me and Defy the Dark.
She’s a champion cupcake eater, tea drinker, tarot enthusiast, night person, and bookworm. When she’s not writing or reading at home in the Pacific northwest, Sarah enjoys hugging trees and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex. Fans can find her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and at sarahockler.com.