by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 6, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Advance Reader Copy
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
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First thing I thought while reading Jennifer Donnelly’s latest novel, Deep Blue: When are Sebastian and Flounder showing up? It can’t be denied that the set-up of this “mermaid princess goes on an adventure and finds her voice” novel is all too reminiscent of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Yet while the similarities are undeniable—Merl princess Sera has a pet octopus—this book does stand on its own two fins (Ha! Just like Donnelly’s writing, expect more mermaid puns, folks.)
The beginning of Deep Blue is a bit slow and tedious, but Donnelly soon has us swimming off on an adventure. And even better, the adventure is shared with Sera’s best friend, Neela. I loved this aspect of the book, that we see two girls who are friends and are figuring things out together. “Things” here is a fairly cool prophecy that takes them from the oceans into the fresh waters to join with others. There are Eastern European water witches involved, which struck me as unique and oh-so-interesting.
I loved the setting in Deep Blue. Loved it. Donnelly does a fantastic job weaving in the lush land settings we know—Venice and the Mediterranean—with a rich, underwater world. It makes the mermaid world feel at once exotic and new, and also ancient. It’s absolutely immersive. (Get it? Because we’re immersed? That was the last one, promise.) What wasn’t so great? Donnelly doesn’t meet a pun she doesn’t love. A rave in the dangerous Venice lagoon is a “wave.” Sera is told more than once by sassy friend Neela, “You go, Merl.” That sound you hear is me groaning loudly.
But overall, I rip(tided) through this book and generally enjoyed it. It may not stick with me like Donnelly’s previous works, but it was fun. Deep Blue is the first in a series, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to dive into Sera’s mermaid world.