Nerissa Marin isn’t your average teenager. She’s secretly the runaway princess of an ancient underwater world called Waterfell, sent away by her father to learn the ways of humans to better understand them. Rissa also has run away from her duties as the queen-to-be by deciding not to return to Waterfell and avenge her father’s murderer – except that her guardians still expect her to take up her crown, and when she comes of age she’s expected to fight for her kingdom.
I really liked Nerissa as a character. I liked her a ridiculous amount. I loved her voice and the narration and her over the top angst and selfishness and the way she turned herself around to become responsible and ultimately fight for her crown. I really loved her relationship with her human best friend Jenna. I even loved how Rissa was determined not to fall for the cocky, arrogant bad-boy wannabe hottie-pants Lo right away. There was no insta-love in this book. I also really loved how Rissa had hobbies and interests that expanded beyond the boy, including school hockey and ocean conservation, which served to round out her character and add depth to the story.
But when you write a romance, to really make it succeed an author has to – at least eventually – make me feel sympathetic towards if not like the love interest. For this, it failed for me, and it’s purely a matter of personal taste. I want to make that perfectly clear: I know that a lot of people should like the way Rissa and Lo bickered and pestered and tormented each other, with their teasing and storming away and pissing each other off, but it didn’t work for me. I didn’t like Lo, and I didn’t find anything about him attractive. Add on to the fact that his own story was terribly predictable from page 1 and I found the romance lacking – although I expect many readers who enjoy that kind of alpha-male cocky attitude alluring will like him.
Again, this is my personal preference and it didn’t gel with me, although I expect a lot of other romance readers to enjoy it. I understand why Rissa felt the need to give her virginity however I am disgusted it was unprotected even if she is some alien sea serpent in human form and thus unlikely to fall pregnant to who she thinks is a human boy. Unsafe sex for teens isn’t romantic and I hate it being framed so.
I absolutely loved the worldbuilding and the revelation that Rissa isn’t actually a mermaid but an alien descended from a race of extra-terrestrial sea-serpents hundreds of years ago. I loved their culture, although I despised how much it rotated around sex from such a young age, and I especially loved the use of explaining everything to BFF Jenna as an excuse to info-dump and answer w hole heap of questions. I liked that Jenna was included and not kept ignorant of Rissa’s heritage. I especially loved the inclusion of same-sex couples in the culture to the point that no one even batted an eyelid when it was mentioned.
I did have a big issue with the way the story was told. In places the description was barely enough to figure out what was going on. The most interesting part of the book – when Rissa threw herself at Lo whilst dunk and he rejected her – was summed up and told in one sentence, instead of shown. That was the most angsty and interesting part of the book and all I get is one sentence. Not happy. There was another section where Rissa and Lo go diving and kiss underwater, but Rissa breathes in front of Lo and he either doesn’t notice or ignores it, and the lack of description leads me to believe that he was also breathing underwater, which means that Rissa is a huge idiot for not noticing. They also kissed underwater, which although terribly romantic is awfully impractical between two people trying to keep up the appearance of being human. TO me, they failed, and since the other didn’t notice, I couldn’t’ help but believe that the startling lack of description in this area means the characters are two of the most stupid characters to ever grace the pages of YA literature. The final part that bothers me about the way the story was chosen to be told is the fact that Rissa and Lo cannot have a decent on-page conversation, yet we are expected to believe they can talk for hours on the phone off-page without annoying the crap out of each other and it devolving into an argument or fight. Because we the audience are always demonstrated through showing that Riss and Lo are tempestuous, it’s hard to accept being told they are lovey-dovey off-page.
The ending also annoyed the crap out of me. The first half of the novel is dedicated almost exclusively to her developing romance with Lo, and the second half includes her training to take on the thrown usurper/father murderer. Yet when the climax comes and Rissa is expected to destroy her enemy, she goes all Little Mermaid on me – as in Prince Eric/Lo rushes to the rescue to kill Ursula/Ehmora while Ariel/Rissa sits there like a damsel in distress, despite that fact that she’s now trained to fight and was doing a decent job of it.
Overall, I was disappointed by this book. Although the first half was decent, it was dedicated almost exclusively to the romance aspect which didn’t work for me on a personal level, and the second half rapidly went downhill with the poor choices made on how to actually tell the story, and never recovered. I really love Nerissa as a character, and that was the redeeming point of this novel that kept me from quitting it early.
Thanks to HarlequinTeen for providing this advanced reader copy for an honest review.