Lies Beneath (Lies Beneath, #1) - Anne Greenwood Brown ***This book was an ARC provided by the publisher. Thank you!***

This is my first dive (heh, heh) into YA mermaid lit. Unfortunately, while I found this new paranormal genre quite refreshing, I wasn't convinced by Anne Greenwood Brown's rendition of the mermaid myth nor was I impressed with the story itself.

Plot Summary

Calder White and his three sisters are merfolk whose mother was killed many years ago. In order to avenge their mother, Calder and his sisters have vowed to kill their mother's murderer's son, John Hancock. When John Hancock moves his family to Lake Superior, it seems like the perfect opportunity to strike. However, in luring Hancock to the lake, Calder must seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. But problems emerge when Calder starts falling in love with Lily and his murderous sisters start to take matters into their own hands.

First, the Good

The book wasn't very bad. In fact, in some places, I felt really engaged with the story and the author's take on mermaids. For example, I found it interesting how the author characterized merfolk as creatures driven not only by rationality but also by instinct. The way the author described a landed merperson's thirst for water was very well done, and she painted a compelling picture of mermaids as more animalistic than human. Second, the author doesn't just let the human-merperson difference become the main point of contention. Instead, she relies on more obstacles, like Calder's quest for revenge, and his conflicting desires for freedom from his sisers and for Lily.

Aside from those points, however, I found some parts of the book underdeveloped.

Main Issues

1. DEVELOPMENT OF MERMAID LORE. I'm not familiar with mermaid lore. This could be because my first exposure to mermaid lore was Hans Christian Andersen's version of it, in all its bloody and tragic goodness. Reading about a young woman ordered to wash her feet in her lovers blood spooked the living poo out of my little kid self and the scar remained ever since.

(In an off topic aside, when I finally watched Disney's The Little Mermaid years later, I spent the first hour in agony, anticipating Prince Eric's refusal of Ariel and Ariel fizzing up into sea foam. Didn't happen, and I felt cheated.)


Darn you and your black bag of lies, Disney!

Don't worry, I've slapped a band-aid on my early psychological boo-boo since then.

The author of LIES BENEATH borrows elements from both Hans and even older myths to tell her tale. She doesn't sugarcoat mermaids as whimsical, singing sea unicorns. But at the same time, she doesn't develop her own version of the mermaid myth nearly enough and there are enough loopholes in this book to round up a few herds of cattle.

Also, her merfolk seem almost like water bound vampires than primal sea predators. They don't eat human flesh to sustain themselves. Instead, they just suck out all positive emotions to reinvigorate themselves, which kills humans.

This confuses me. First, physiologically speaking, if such a thing were possible wouldn't the victim just become devoid of emotion or maybe even insane? Insanity would have been interesting. Second, Calder seems very emotional, as are his sisters. I didn't see the connection between their state of being, and eating emotions to sustain their state of being.

2. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. This is what killed me. The story is told from Calder's POV. Perhaps it's because of this that I never felt really connected to Lily, or for that matter, anyone else in the novel. I wasn't sure whether I should have dreaded the Whites’ confrontation with Hancock because (1) I was sympathetic for Calder's star-crossed romance (I wasn't) or (2) because I didn't want to see the fragile Hancock family broken up by tragedy (honestly, I could have cared less what happened to them). Maybe I'm just heartless. Or maybe it's because none of the characters were really fleshed out. Even Calder, I thought, was not very fleshed out. Maybe it was because all he has his mind on is on revenge, but he felt very two-dimensional.

Also, Lily became kind of a Mary Sue with her sacrifice for her father and, later, her easy forgiveness of Calder. Honestly, if anyone tried to kill my parent, I would have flipped a shit and slammed the door in their faces!.


3. INSTALOVE. Need I say more? Bonus landlubber points for using excerpts of Victorian poetry to communicate sentiments. They were used gratuitously and quickly became an overkill of word usage to describe Calder's and Lily's feelings for each other.

Overall, interesting premise but very shaky execution. 2 stars, though I haven't given up on mermaid lit quite yet.

Here's hoping that more books will surface with a protagonist that is an actual sea monster-like creature that will eat your face: