Title: The Surface Breaks
Author: Louise O’Neill
Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice?
This book was not exactly what I was expecting. Opening with that line for a review can only go one of two ways. Either I was pleasantly surprised, or I wasn’t. The thing is, I don’t actually know which one it is out of those two.
The cover for this book is extremely pretty and slightly gives off a more middle grade fantasy retelling. That is the kind of thing that I was expecting, a book between middle grade and young adult. Well, I can safely say that this book definitely is not for middle grade readers (ie. children) as the pretty cover may slightly suggest. There are darker themes that are explored in this book which some readers may find harmful, such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse. There are also themes of physical self discovery.
I thought that the writing in this one was ok. I wasn’t totally blown away by it. When I read, I am always very driven forward by dialogue and this book had plenty of that. This did keep my attention, but I did feel that I got to some parts of the book and I just wanted a little bit more to keep my interest at its peak.
I found some of the characters to be quite annoying – one of the main characters, Oliver, was insufferable at times and only thought about himself. In fact, all of the men in this book were insufferable apart from perhaps one, called George. This book really does its job in showing the serious oppression of women in how they are seen below and less than men and that they are just there to look and be pretty for male attention and that if they don’t suit the ideal, they are cast out by society. Obviously this taps into something that women have actually experienced and still do all over the world. It’s incredibly frustrating to experience it but also to read about it.
The settings were easy to imagine as the writing was descriptive, but not too over the top. I felt that I was able to follow the story easily and quickly. With just over 300 pages, I knew that it would be a relatively quick read anyway. If a book has 300 pages or less, I feel like I tend to fly through them a lot faster!
I felt that there was a lot of jealousy in this book between the sisters and how they treated one another. The main character is plucky but I felt that she really fell for someone who was a bad person. She demonstrated so many emotions throughout from shame to fury, feeling defeated to coming back stronger and better. The main character really grew with the story as it progressed and I’m glad that we really got some character growth in this one. Her determination to find love was also the cause of her pain but she really did come out stronger for it.
In short, this book was not was I was expecting at all. It had mature content that I wasn’t anticipating, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it just threw me off completely. I was assuming that, due to the cover, it would be a relatively fluffy Little Mermaid retelling. I guess I’m perhaps thinking of the fluffy Disney movie whereas this book probably is more of a retelling of a different Little Mermaid that I don’t really know.
In regards to my feelings about the book, I sort of feel indifferent to it. I don’t feel that I was totally blown away by it, but I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by it. I just thought that it was ok, and so because of that, I have given it 3 stars.