Gender roles, teen sexuality and MERMAIDS

Reblogged from Rashika, The Book Owl:
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids - Sarah Ockler

***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

Two years ago (I cannot believe it’s been that long), I read and fell in love with The Book of Broken Hearts. I knew Ockler was definitely an author whose future books I would want to devour and The Summer of Chasing Mermaids reminded me why I fell in love with The Book of Broken Hearts so long ago (okay kind of a while ago :P).

This is a beautifully written book that makes me want to do the monkey, makes me want to highfive the author and if I could do cartwheels, that’s what I would have been doing after finishing this book.

I should start off by saying that I am not really a contemporary reader. That isn’t to say I don’t read contemporary, I DO and I have a lot of favorite books that are contemporaries but it isn’t my ‘go to genre’ when I want something to read (at least in terms of YA books). But this was up next on my review list and I knew it was time to pick it up (because otherwise, Nick would have disowned me). It’s ridiculous that I even put this wonderful piece of work off for as long as I did since it only took me a couple of pages to be sucked in and forget about the outside world.

Now I am not saying this book is absolutely perfection, it’s not. There are things that bothered me but the good things completely eclipsed the not so great which is why I am here right now kind of rambling about this wonderful piece of work.

This is a book that really showcases what it means to be a teenager in the modern world. Its a sex positive, pro feminist (ideals) read that features a POC female lead and great relationships and just makes me want to squeal in delight.

Can I just say that it made me so happy to see the word feminist being used in this novel. I AM A PROUD FEMINIST KILLJOY. I know a lot of books have dealt with feminist issues but it’s the first time (unless my old age is affecting my memory again) I’ve actually seen the term being used and I think this is such a huge step forward! Moving on from my joy at seeing the term being used, this book also deals with the idea of gender roles. We see young little Sebastian, who is obsessed with mermaids constantly being shot down by his father and other men around him (besides his fabulous brother) and urged to do something more masculine.  Elyse also suffers the consequences of these roles when she is repeatedly told by the mayor she is not suited to being a first mate, even though she has more experience sailing boats than almost anyone else on the Island. It’s disgusting that so many people out there have such backward attitudes but there it is. And Ockler deals with the issue beautifully.

She also deals with teen sexuality beautifully. Here is the truth: a lot of teens out there have sex on a regular basis. Here is also another truth: sex is not really talked about in our society in the way it should be. Instead it is frowned upon and I have friends whose sex education was basically abstinence. That is not what we should be telling teens. Teens should know that it is completely normal to have a sex drive (I PROMISE I WON’T MAKE THINGS TOO AWKWARD) and that what they feel is normal.Sex isn’t wrong or bad or something to do only if you’re married. Have sex all you want teens, just stay safe. So yes, basically, Ockler nails it and should get some sort of award (I couldn’t come up with any witty names) for dealing with sexuality in a healthy way (going so far as to feature a masturbation scene).

My only problems with this novel arose with some minor issues with Christian and how some of the girls outside of Elyse’s group seemed to be defined by how they were really into Christian. There was also this awkward moment when a girl was defined by her article with clothing (“short shorts”) until Elyse learned her name. Christian also makes certain comments that made me uncomfortable because they seemed almost demeaning to me, but over the course of the book, we get to see him unfold into a character that is worthy of all the swooning and in the end, given all the other positive things this book has going for it, I didn’t feel too put off by these issues.

I have spent way too long talking about all the issues this book is dealing with and completely forgot about some of the more important things, like Elyse.

Elyse is a PERSON OF COLOR. OMG. CAN YOU GUYS BELIEVE IT? ME EITHER! *flails* And she is a person of color with a disability. As a result of a recent accident, she lost her beautiful singing voice. She doesn’t know who she is anymore so she runs away from home (Tobago) and comes to live with her dad’s friend. Elyse is so lost and confused at the beginning of the novel and seeing her so unsure of herself broke my heart but I loved watching her grow into the beautiful person she was by the end of the book. She learns to stand up on her two feet again, and to appreciate herself and she doesn’t do it on her own. Lemon, Kirby and Vanessa are all there to help her find herself again. Healthy relationships between females are so important and this book ticks another check box there.

Christian is a great romantic interest. He starts off as someone I wasn’t entirely sure about but he manages to win me over. By the end of the book, I was swooning so hard over him because he is such a great guy. He may be a player, but he isn’t an asshole and that is an important distinction. He is also so kind to Elyse and the way he is there for is just fantastic.

Their romance made me flail and I loved seeing them progress from friends to something more than that. They work well together and I love that they support one another. Both of them issues they need help dealing with and they help each other by BEING there and believing in one another.

My favorite character in this book was hands down Sebatian though. After all, what’s not lovable about a 6 year old boy who loves mermaids?

This is a great book that deals with loss and coming to terms with it (whether it’s literal or not literal), about finding one’s voice again, and appreciating all those important relationships in your life. This is a magical summer read filled with mermaids, swoon worthy boys, an adventure, a great MC and one I would highly recommend. PEACE OUT, MERMAIDS.