For two weeks, come celebrate mermaids, whether it’s winter or summer where you live. Splash into Summer runs from June 28th to July 12th. There will be author interviews, guest posts, giveaways, reviews, and more! Now is the time to celebrate mermaids, especially with so many new novels about them coming out.
Reading THE MERMAID’S MIRROR was a hard experience for me. I bought the book when it came out last year and put off reading it because I like to savor my mermaid novels at my leisure. This past January, author L.K. Madigan announced that she had stage IV pancreatic cancer. On February 23, 2011, she departed from our world and made her way into another. Now I had a new reason to put off reading this book. Once it was done, there would be nothing new to read. This was Madigan’s second novel. Her first, FLASH BURNOUT, won the 2010 William C. Morris Debut Award. She had a stunning career ahead of her. THE MERMAID’S MIRROR itself is, at times, a sad book. Madigan had an uncanny way of twisting a reader’s emotions around and leaving shades of gray in her wake. There is no black and white. Turning the last page and reading the author’s note and acknowledgements made me sad all over. Even the book’s cover is stormy and sad, the sea rough and turbulent. The very book mourns its maker. Suddenly, symbolism is prevalent in ways no one could have foreseen.
Mixing between contemporary and fantasy, THE MERMAID’S MIRROR is a unique blend of two worlds that don’t normally collide. The first half of the book focuses on Lena, a girl whose mother passed away when she was four years old. Her father remarried when she was about nine, and she has a young half-brother named Cole. She’s relatively happy with life: She’s had the same two best friends since sixth-grade, Pem and Kai, and recently begun dating Kai. The only thing that would make life complete is being able to surf and be one with the ocean. Her dad, however, refuses to let her learn. He had a really bad accident earlier in life and refuses to ever go back in the water. He forbids Lena from surfing, much to her chagrin. On her sixteenth birthday when taking a morning walk along the ocean’s edge, Lena spies a mermaid in the water and her life changes forever. Determined to see the mermaid again and prove that she isn’t going crazy, Lena learns to surf behind her father’s back, hoping to get close to the mermaid again.
When Lena discovers an explosive secret that her family members have been keeping from her, she runs to the ocean that has always comforted her. The mermaid is there and takes her away to a world untouched by humans. The second half of the book focuses on mermaids and sea lore. Madigan blends selkie mythology into her mermaid world, adding in elements of forgetting that would make the goddess Lethe proud. The underwater world is rich and raw, depicting merfolk in their natural habitat. Human though they may look, they are still wild creatures with their own ways of life. Their world is stunning and one I wish to re-visit. Once in the sea, Lena forgets everything, even the faces of her loved ones. Nothing is important save for her presence. Her experience changes her and forces her to grow up in ways she never imagined. Lena must make a tough decision regarding whether to remain in her new home with merfolk she has come to care for or return to a place she can barely remember.
Our heroine can be self-absorbed and hard to connect with at times, but at others, her heart shines through and draws readers in. It is impossible not to like Lena as you follow her plight. She feels real and is the essence of many teenage girls who feel like they don’t quite belong in one world or another. It’s easy to emphasize with a lot of what she goes through. In her acknowledgements, Madigan talked about writing a sequel to the novel. Have no fear; the book has a natural closing point. There is no cliffhanger, no teasing hint of story curves ahead. This is good because there is closure, which is needed at the end of this turbulent book. At the same time, readers have become so invested in Lena and the world that Madigan has built that they won’t be ready to say goodbye come the last page, making the finale even more bittersweet. It is an honor to read THE MERMAID’S MIRROR and honor the memory of a shining writer who passed much too soon.
The cover for THE MERMAID’S MIRROR is well-suited to the story lying within on many levels. For one thing, the turbulent sea and stormy sky represent the turmoil hidden within Lena. She is torn in so many directions and feels lost. The book is a perfect representation. The cover also creates an aura of sadness, of loneliness, both feelings that Lena experiences. She often goes out to the beach and looks out into the sea, as the cover model is doing. I can picture Lena looking just like that. I also like the way the font used for the title isn’t perfect. It is jagged and marred, adding to the rough atmosphere of the cover image. The cover has a normal girl, not a mermaid. Even under the sea, Lena maintains a piece of her humanity. Despite the fantastic elements, the novel is still contemporary and the cover reflects the fact quite nicely.