The Surface Breaks

336p. Scholastic. Jul. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338332605.
Gr 9 Up-The Sea King sees his daughters, little mermaid Muirgen and her sisters, as posessions. He expects them to be gorgeous, silent, and submissive. Though the youngest, Muirgen is the Sea King's most beautiful daughter and is betrothed at a young age to her father's old war buddy. Unhappy with this arrangement, Muirgen finds herself swimming to the surface for the first time where she comes upon a party yacht and falls hopelessly in love with a handsome young man, Oliver, from a distance. When a storm approaches, Muirgen rescues him from the wreckage. After days spent pining for him, she gives her voice to the Sea Witch in exchange for legs and one month to make Oliver fall in love with her. Borrowing from both the Hans Christian Andersen classic and its Disney adaptation, this reimagining adds some twists: Muirgen leaves her life, fleeing physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; the Sea Witch is not malicious; and Oliver is a shipping-empire heir who is suffering from PTSD. All these factors ultimately culminate into a feminist revenge fantasy that will satisfy a very specific reader. Though the author's tone is slightly preachy and it's sometimes infuriating to read through Muirgen's naiveté, the story moves along at a quick clip, especially once Muirgen gets her legs.
VERDICT Though not perfect, this is a readable and ultimately empowering tale that will appeal to fans of Elana K. Arnold's Damsel. If it finds its readers, it'll make waves.-Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

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