|An illustration from Honor C. Appleton's The Little Mermaid, as reprinted in the Wall Street Journal|
I was surprised (and delighted) to discover that Meghan Cox Gurdon had reviewed most of the summer's mermaid books in The Wall Street Journal on Friday. I may be one of the only—the only?—young-adult authors with an actual subscription to the WSJ.
Ms. Gurdon is famous in the YA community for having written an article in June, 2011 about how dark YA books have gotten, and Monstrous Beauty is nothing if not dark, so I held my breath as I read her summary, but she got it just right:
Teen readers will have to wait until later this year for two of the most compelling (and gory) mermaid offerings....Elizabeth Fama's "Monstrous Beauty" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 295 pages, $17.99), also due out this summer, is by far the most sophisticated but also the most mature in its treatment of the consuming loves and violent deaths wrought by mer-folk. The story begins in 1522 when the mermaid Syrenka accidentally murders her mortal beloved. Three centuries later, she renounces her fins and tail for the love of another human man, but the exchange comes at a terrible price. Nor does her transformation go unnoticed: A local woman's suspicion of Syrenka leads to a scene of Grand Guignol that will send ghastly effects down to the present day and into the life of a teenager named Hester.My friend Karyn Silverman pointed out that"sophisticated but mature" is a bit of a contradiction, unless you interpret "sophisticated" to be "good" and "mature" to be code for "sex and violence." I think that's undoubtedly what Ms. Gurdon meant, but both words are apt. And nothing makes me happier than hearing the pivotal historical scene in the book described as a Grand Guignol. WIN.
It's a swell review, and I'm grateful. It also tickles me to no end to see my name, rather than my husband's or my dad's, in the WSJ.