Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Girl With The Mermaid Hair - Delia Ephron

Title: The Girl With The Mermaid Hair
Author: Delia Ephron
Publisher: Harper Teen, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 312 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: November 13, 2010
Finished: November 16, 2010

From the inside cover:
Sukie Jamieson takes a selfie after her tennis lesson.
She takes one before she has to give a presentation in class.
She takes one to be sure there’s nothing in her teeth after eating pizza at Clementi’s.
And if she can’t take a selfie, she checks her reflection in windows, spoons, car chrome—anything available, really. So when her mother gives her an exquisite full-length mirror that once belonged to her grandmother, Sukie is thrilled. So thrilled that she doesn’t listen to her mother’s warning: “This mirror will be your best friend and worst enemy.” Because mirrors, as Sukie discovers, show not only the faraway truth but the truth close up. And finding out that close-up truth changes people. Often forever.

This book is positively brilliant, I was in awe the whole time I was reading it. It's hard for me to verbalize exactly what about it makes me love it so much, but I'll try.

The book starts off kind of strange, a little different style than most books I read, to the point where I wondered, "what the heck is this?", mostly because I had no clue what "selfies" were in this context (pictures taken of yourself with a cell-phone camera). Sukie (real name Susannah) is perfect: she has beautiful blond "mermaid hair", a wonderful 15-year-old body, a good family, lives in a nice house, has a cute and behaved little brother, goes to a good private school, and has wonderful prospects in life. She's also messed up (in a quirky way), so narcissistic and boring until you learn more about her and by the end you realize she's actually refreshingly normal...so normal in fact that she represents your average girl and you can't help but love her to pieces. Sukie's mother gives her an antique mirror of her grandmother's and warns her that the mirror will be her best friend and worst enemy (it's very easy to see where Sukie gets her anxieties about looking pretty from). The mirror is a huge presence in the novel although it doesn't show up that often, everything goes back to the mirror. Sukie slowly starts to understand that her life only appears perfect as it starts to unravel, which is evidenced by the cracks that develop in the mirror.

The writing is amazing, the author is extremely talented at describing everything intimately, there is no issue of telling versus showing, which is so refreshing you have no idea. It's as if you've been plugged straight into Sukie's brain, which is a feeling not too many books can accomplish even with first-person narration. Her writing is also incredibly clever, some of the lines Sukie comes up with are pure golden. Since this book is all about characters-not much happens plot-wise-it's good to see that the characters are so well-developed...and the best character is Senor, Sukie's dog I kid you not. This dog reminded me so much of my own dog: it doesn't respond to anyone unless it darn well wants to, it's very vocal when you're doing something it doesn't like, and subconsciously runs the household.

The themes that run through the book are so pervasive among teenagers today (especially teen girls), that I would say this should be recommended reading in high schools. Sukie has pressures to be beautiful, to be insanely smart, to inwardly reflect the seemingly perfect life she has, that she realizes she has no substance...I think the saddest part of this novel for me was when Sukie realizes she has no friends...at all. How sad is that? I'm hard pressed to think of a 15/16 year old girl that doesn't have at least one friend. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life since all she's been told is to get good grades and be pretty...she hasn't learned to do anything in her life with passion because her family is completely passion-less about everything. So yes, this book can generate some wonderful discussions with teenagers, I'd love to use it in my classes.

Read this! Seriously, The Girl With The Mermaid Hair is one of the best books I've read this year, entertaining and immensely thought-provoking at the same time, not to mention wonderfully written.

Thoughts on the cover:
Love it. One of the prettiest covers I've seen, Sukie's face is in profile and you can see details of how pretty she actually is, I love how you can see the outline of her eyelashes and the light shining through her hair, just gorgeous.

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