Fintastic: the rise of mermaids and sirens
While the current trend in YA lit seems to have shifted to dystopian stories, paranormal romance is still going strong. First there were vampires, then there were werewolves, and now among the fallen angels and immortals and faeries, mermaids are really making a splash (boo, I know).
What is it about mermaids that readers of YA lit find so romantic and enthralling? I think they get at something on a psychological level: like werewolves, mermaids let characters explore different identities other than their human ones, and often force characters to choose between one life or another. But while werewolves are powerful, frightening, animal, mermaids are often associated with beauty and grace. (That’s certainly not always the case, though: mermaids can also be ferocious, or mixed in with siren mythology and portrayed as temptresses.) Either way, mermaid stories seem to tap into qualities we traditionally label as feminine and make us consider identity and belonging.
As autumn approaches, prolong your summer just a bit longer with some of these fantastic finned reads!
Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli
Originally published in 1998 (and among the 1999 Best Books for Young Adults), this would be a great book to revisit now that mermaids are in. It’s a tragic story of the love between a siren and a mortal man who can grant her immortality.
The Mermaid’s Mirror by LK Madigan
Lena has always been fascinated by the sea and wants to learn to surf. Her father forbids it, fearing for her safety, but she can’t resist the water, and her life is changed forever when she glimpses a beautiful woman with a tail. Madigan won the Morris award in 2010 for her novel Flash Burnout.
Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau
For a younger crowd, Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings explores the tragedy of Jade, a plus-size aqua-phobic mermaid who’s trying to find out how her mother drowned when she’s the one who gave Jade her mermaid genes in the first place–and get through the trials and tribulations of normal teen life, too!
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Luce is attacked and falls from a cliff into the sea–but instead of dying, she becomes a mermaid and begins to understand exactly what that means. The mermaids here are mean and are born from brutal circumstances–which may explain why they try to lure people to their deaths.
Siren by Tricia Rayburn
Vanessa’s sister dies in what seems like a cliff-diving accident, but when other bodies–men and boys with huge grins on their faces–wash up on shore, Vanessa needs to get to the bottom of things. The sirens show up late in this book, but they’re the key to the mystery.
Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
Lily grew up a mermaid princess but discovered that her mother was human and has been trying to live a human life. Protecting her identity is hard enough, but when she falls hard for Brody, a swimming superstar, things get even tougher. This book is just packed with mermaid- and fish-related puns.
Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Tempest just wants to be normal, but at seventeen, she’ll have to choose between being a human or living as a mermaid like her mother did. It may not just be her own fate she’s deciding, either: the entire ocean is at stake. A current nominee for the Readers’ Choice Award.
Are there any other great mermaid or siren books you’ve read recently?
— Gretchen Kolderup, currently reading How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg