Friday, October 4, 2019

Coral, or, The One with Some Mermaid Stuff But Not Enough Mermaid Stuff



by Sara Ella

Pages: 384
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: November 12th, 2019

Cover Comments: This cover is so cute and may have been part of the reason I picked this book up. The front of Coral, the human and mermaid silhouettes, it all works.

First Lines: 
"She's not sick. She's not.

               Goodreads δΈ¨ Amazon
There is more than one way to drown.

Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. Worse yet, she fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease, said to be carried by humans—emotions. Can she face the darkness long enough to surface in the light?

Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at Fathoms—a new group therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?

Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?

When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive, and Coral might even catch a prince in the process. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?

Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale, Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.


First, I really appreciate what the author is trying to do with Coral. Mental illness needs to be discussed more often, especially in YA, and the way that Coral is set up, with the different POVs and the mermaid aspects is ambitious and has potential. However, I don’t think it was executed well, which is a shame.

There are some problems with the writing here, large and small. First, I never connected with the characters. They seemed entirely defined by the people around them, their surroundings, or their mental illness. The writer left tons of things unexplained throughout the book, with no hints or nudges that it’s a mystery, leaving me to wonder if she just didn’t think about it. For instance, Merrick hates his father, even jumping to the conclusion that his father beat up his little sister readily at one point - why? We don’t really know. Merrick’s POV never refers to some event that happened in the past, hinting that it will be explained, or even show Merrick’s dad being anything worse than a little distant. The characters’ reasons for their actions didn’t really make sense except to move the plot forward. And plot? What plot? I don’t actually care if books are plot-driven or character-driven, but this was neither.

The overall tone of the book is dark, but Coral’s sections earlier on in the book especially doesn’t really match the tone of the writing. It’s like the author was trying to make it fun and whimsical, like the Little Mermaid movie, but it’s just jarring in a novel that’s largely about mental health, suicide, and death. I felt like every page, Coral’s inner monologue would reference something about the sea, i.e.:

“ graceful as a manta ray's glide”
“The intrusiveness of his gaze wrapped Coral's nerves in jellyfish tentacles.”
“The earthquake inside her bones rivaled a shifting seabed.”

A little heavy-handed. Coral’s POV also referred to her as “the little mermaid” about six times too many. I was most intrigued by the mermaid aspect of the book, so it was disappointing when those sections were the most annoying. Some of my gripes make sense later on in the book, but I still think it’s lazy writing not to flesh out this portion of the book, or at least hint at later revelations about it.

The story kind of gets turned upside down right near the end, and I had a big problem with it. Nothing made sense throughout most of the book about Coral’s life, Brooke’s history, or how their POV’s connect with Merrick. This gets resolved near the end with this dramatic reveal, and I honestly felt cheated by it. I’ve seen books do a plot twist like this well, but it simply made me mad in Coral. It seemed to me that the author just misled readers by changing details so that there’s no way they would guess the twist, which means it came out of nowhere, with no breadcumbs that could be followed from earlier on in the story.

I don’t want to complain about this book forever, so I’ll quickly list the other negatives:
- I didn’t connect with the romance and thought it was unnecessary.
- There were huge sections of the book that jump forward in time or leave out details (to service the twist at the end, I think).
- Side characters that could have been explored and fleshed-out were only given a cursory glance. I would have loved to know more about the grandmother and what exactly happened between her and - - Coral to strain their relationship.
- The mermaid/underwater portion of the book is heavily emphasized (cover and all) but was not really a major part of the novel.

Again, I respect what the author was trying to do here, but I really struggled to even finish this book, much less enjoy it.

*Thanks to Netgalley and the author for the chance to read Coral before its publication date.

No comments:

Post a Comment