Friday, April 29, 2011

Sea Change

Title: Sea Change
Author: Aimee Friedman
Themes: friendship, mermaids, forgiveness, betrayal, love, class, wealth
Rating: **

Plot: When Miranda Merchant, sixteen and levelheaded, escapes her lonely, hot summer in New York City, little does she know what awaits her. She steps off the ferry onto an island rife with legend, lore, and a past her logical mind can't make sense of. She isn't expecting to feel a connection to this unusual place, so filled with languorous charm and strange history.

And when she meets Leo, a mysterious local boy, she finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship, reality...and love.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something she never could have imagined?

My Thoughts: I admit to being slightly disappointed by Sea Change. I have been looking for an enjoyable mermaid/selkie young adult book since reading Melissa Marr's short story "Love Struck" which can be found in this book. Sea Change takes place on Selkie Island and is perhaps about merpeople, so I gave it a shot! I just found it to be a bit lacking in both the romance development as well as the mythic/folkloric aspects of the storyline.

First, my qualms with the back cover/bookflap summary. Selkie Island isn't what I would call "rife with legend, lore, and a past her logical mind can't make sense of." In fact the only real legend, lore, and mysterious past in this book emanate from a book of legends our protagonist finds and mostly ignores, and an older man on the ferry who warns her of a kraken. I think that Friedman could have really expanded on this particular theme, since later suspicions that Leo isn't wholly human seems to be more extreme paranoia and silliness than based on any sort of prevailing lore within the context of the story.

The protagonist herself, Miranda, is fairly cliched as well, which I personally find unbearable. She is a "science" that disallows her to be anything but super-ambitious, super-ingenious, anti-social, awkward, and sloppily dressed apparently. She just can't get "English or history" or anything not related to science...she has "science withdrawals" as well. She also suffers from low-self-esteem, until she suddenly discovers she is beautiful because boys find her just seemed like such a silly and unrealistic transformation from wallflower to "oh gosh I'm sexy!" I'm sure such people exist, but it just seems like such a collection of stereotypes in this case. I found Miranda to be completely flat and unlikeable because of it.

My final comments deal with the romance aspect of the novel, which admittedly is about 90% of the story. Through the novel the reader discovers Miranda's ex-boyfriend and the reason for her disavowal of "love" and "happy endings," during which time we are introduced to two boys on Selkie Island. One, T.J., is a "summer" inhabitant of the island-who is rich, gentlemanly, and boring. The other is Leo, a local on the island who lives in Fisherman's Village and splits his time between his father's fishing business and his internship at the island marine center. Naturally, he is also a bit of a "bad boy." I didn't find his "bad boy"-ness to be particularly obnoxious or forced (as in some YA romances that I've read), and actually found his character quite endearing even if I'm not quite sure of his intentions or motivations even after I've completed the book. However, I did find all of Miranda's potential relationships to be rather flat; she was there a week and a half...and it just seemed to rushed and hollow. I couldn't really understand the romance since it seemed far too quick and with far to much "baggage/drama" to be really believable.

I won't repeat myself by discussing the mother/daughter relationship and the books ending. They were sort of...surprising because they didn't make sense, and terribly flat as well.

Recommendation: This wasn't an unenjoyable book, and any fans of supernatural (or not?) romances and YA fiction might enjoy this more than me. Otherwise I probably wouldn't recommend this particular novel. I just couldn't connect at all to the flat protagonist and felt rather grossed out at the break-neck speed of the potential romances that occurred in Sea Change.

Random Quote: "Mom stepped up to me and put her hands on my arms, but I jerked away. 'You're going to catch a cold,' she said. 'You should take a hot shower. We'll talk about this another time. Doctor's orders,' she added with a small smile.
'I don't want to talk about it,' I snapped. It was my last lie of the night. And with that, I brushed pasted Mom and started for the stairs, leaving small puddles in my wake." (p. 161)

Friedman, Aimee. Sea Change. New York: Point, 2009.

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