2014 Winner — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Young Adult FictionThe Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble is a whimsical short fantasy novel geared toward young middle schoolers. There are elements of the fairy tale in it, but the story itself is not based on a fairy tale.
There is no cure for being who you truly are...
In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions. By night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of three orphan infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree.
One day, Clara discovers shimmering scales just beneath her sister’s skin. She realizes that Maren is becoming a mermaid—and knows that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, Clara and O’Neill place the mermaid-girl in their gypsy wagon and set out for the sea. But no road is straight, and the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening mermaid.
And always, in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?
Sisters Clara and Maren grow up happily with their Auntie on a small cottage high on a mountain. They help Auntie with her healing potions and she tells them fantastical stories, including their favorite of how Clara was brought to Auntie by a stork and Maren arrived on a stormy night in a giant seashell, while their best friend O'Neill was found beneath an apple tree.
The story takes off from there with Maren as a sixteen year old beginning to change into a mermaid with sparkly scales and the kind of beauty that maddens men. Soon they all realize that Maren will die if she is not taken to the sea. O'Neill and Clara place her on O'Neill's gypsy wagon and set off. Their journey is long and filled with troubles. Along the way they encounter evil and battle personal doubts, love, jealousies, and selfish love, as neither O'Neill nor Clara want to let Maren go to the sea.
There are a couple of threads about acceptance that are perfectly suited for young adults. Maren accepts who she is and knows where she needs to go, but can she learn that she can't always get her own way? The journey, however, turns into more of a quest for Clara, one in which she needs to figure out who she really is and what she is capable of doing. In reality Clara and Maren are adopted sisters, but in their hearts and minds they are sisters born. Their love for each other is boundless and Clara shows that love in thought and action. For O'Neill the journey becomes a lesson about letting go by accepting a loved one's decisions.
The Mermaid's Sister is a book that young middle schoolers will enjoy, it is not for adult reading. As an adult reader, I found one too many unanswered questions at the end and a fairy tale "happy ever after" between two sixteen year olds that did not make sense. The story is well written. It contains joy and sadness, good and evil, a bit of magic, and a few extra surprises. I read it to find out if my younger nieces would enjoy it and yes, I believe they would.