Review: The Mermaid’s Mirror
Lena has lived her whole life near the beach – walking for miles up and down the shore and breathing the salty air, swimming in the cold water, and watching the surfers rule the waves – the problem is, she’s spent her whole life just watching. As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Lena vows she will no longer watch from the sand: she will learn to surf. But her father – a former surfer himself – refuses to allow her to take lessons. After a near drowning in his past, he can’t bear to let Lena take up the risky sport. Yet something lures Lena to the water … an ancient, powerful magic. One morning Lena catches sight of this magic: a beautiful woman – with a silvery tail. Nothing will keep Lena from seeking the mermaid, not even the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove. And soon … what she sees in the mermaid’s mirror will change her life …–From Amazon
I have to admit that reading The Mermaid’s Mirror was exciting to me for several reasons, the last of which was the content. It was the first book I read from NetGalley, and the first book that I read on a Nook, and I loved Flash Burnout so much that I couldn’t imagine waiting until October for another L.K. Madigan book. The newness of the Nook, especially, made it challenging for the first few pages to focus on what I was reading instead of what I was reading it on. It took me close to 100 pages to settle in and just enjoy the story.
The Mermaid’s Mirror is nothing like Flash Burnout; it is part contemporary realistic fiction and part fantasy with a female narrator. It lacks the grit and wit of Flash, but I think Madigan’s prose is more fluid in her second novel. The Mermaid’s Mirror is like a Siren’s song, calling you to the beach. The detailed descriptions of the ocean and surfing were some of the most impressive sections of this book. It’s really too bad that it doesn’t come out until October because I think this would be such a perfect beach read for this summer. It would be in good company hanging out on the sand with other merfolk books like Sea Change and Forgive My Fins.
One of the other things I love most about Madigan’s books is the family dynamic. In Mermaid’s Mirror, she crafts a supportive, loving, relatively normal family. Of course, they have their secrets–there has to be tension in there somewhere–but they are overall just an average family, and I don’t get to read much about those. Lena’s relationship with her younger brother Cole is really sweet, and Cole’s shout outs for family group hugs warmed my heart every time. I admired Lena’s dad’s devotion to his family, no matter the cost, and I cracked up every time Lena’s mom relaxed on the couch with some reality tv.
The television references and IM conversations tossed into the book were spot on, though I worry a bit about how they will age. For the present, though, Madigan clearly has a grip on pop culture and how teens talk. Along the pop culture lines, I also really enjoyed Lena’s boyfriend’s love for music. His constant singing, usually with Lena’s name inserted into the lyrics, was an endearing quality. Kai and his musical presence were some of my favorite elements of the book, and I was sad that there wasn’t more of them. Other minor characters made less of an impression, coming and going so quickly.
It is hard to discuss the merfolk in this book without giving away anything too spoilery, so I will simply say that childhood fans of The Little Mermaid should be very pleased by this modern look at classic merfolk lore. Without them, there could still have been a very solid story, but they made the book even more enchanting.
Above all, I enjoyed Lena’s growth throughout the book. I know many readers found her too whiny and immature, and that may be the case in the beginning. Though, for a character in her situation, I don’t know that those traits were too much of a stretch. As the story progresses, I think Lena learns a lot about the value of family and being true to your friends. She may not always make the best choices, but how many 15 and 16 years olds do? I would have liked to see more insight into her decision making at times, because I think that did occasionally fall short, but overall there was enough back story built in to make her character motivation understandable.
With two very different books under her belt, I’m not sure what Madigan will have in store for us next, but I know that I’ll be keeping an eye out for it. If The Mermaid’s Mirror is any indication, her writing will only improve with each book.