Imagine you couldn’t decide between pizza, Chinese food, or burritos for dinner. Would you just give in and have some of all three or would you decide to have one on each of three separate occasions? In this young adult paranormal fantasy, it seems as if the author has analogously opted to have everything at once.
There are at least three separate paranormal plots going on in this book and they don’t really don’t seem to go together at all. We have a sisterhood of girls who live underwater, we have a set of triplets each with a different extrasensory skill, and we have a third (and the most bizarre plot line of all) group of beings that I won’t discuss much because it may be spoilery.
The story is told in alternate chapters by Lo (one of the sea sisters) and Celia (one of the triplets). Both of them are attracted to a boy Jude for no apparent reason except they like his eyes. In between trying to make time with Jude, the girls tell their stories – at least to the extent they know them, which isn’t a lot. Lo has no idea who she used to be or how she got to be a sea sister, but believes in the legend decreeing that she needs to kill a boy who loves her in order to return to human form and retrieve her soul:
“Make him love you, kiss him, drown him. Earn his soul, and you get your humanity back – the escape from the ocean that the older girls told her about on her very first day.”
(In all other respects, these sea sisters aren’t dumb. But here, they are convinced that grabbing a boy and asking this total stranger as they try to drown him “Do you love me?”, will inspire the boy to do so. This seems unbelievably silly, even for sea nymphs without the power to check Wikipedia for verification.…)
Celia has the power to see a person’s past. This gift has always made her feel useless, especially vis-à-vis her other two sisters’ gifts, but now Lo’s need to know who she used to be offers her a chance to redeem herself.
The third plot line, involving a mysterious scarred man who may or may not be an angel, is not as central, but always looms over the other two.
The author seems to want to be saying something about sisters, but the story is so contradictory I can’t tell what it is. Are sisters the ultimate good or the ultimate evil? Lo herself is a huge contradiction, with a personality that flips as much as a mermaid tail (which the sea sisters do not have, by the way). Some of that flipping is part of the plot, but some of it seems like the author herself got confused. And Jude is a nobody. He provides nothing whatsoever to the plot except to be a focal point for Celia and Lo.
Evaluation: This story is definitely intended as a dark retelling of “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen (you can read the original online here) but that’s about the only “definite” thing I can say about this book. On the author’s website, I learned that this book is a “companion book” to Sisters Red and Sweetly, but there is absolutely no indication of that anywhere on or in the book itself. Maybe this book would have made more sense to me had I read the earlier books, but I just thought this book was a bit of a mess. The different segments don’t mesh, and we get only the barest of explanations about what happened to one character in one aspect of her life, but not any whys or wherefores for the whole paranormal mishmash generally.
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2012