Home » Middle School » THUMBS UP to Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

THUMBS UP to Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

IMG_1126.JPGPUBLISHER: Disney Press

LENGTH: 340 pages

SOURCE: purchased

SUMMARY: The first in a series of four epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin’s arrow poisons Sera’s mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.

REVIEW: Someone told me a while back that mermaids would be the new vampires in YA publishing. I didn’t really believe them at the time but now books about mermaids seem to be making a splash?… popping to the surface?… surging ahead?… emerging on the shelves. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.) So when I saw a new title with a delightfully blue-green cover adorned with a shimmery but mysterious looking mermaid that was also written by Jennifer Donnelly, I couldn’t resist.

Deep Blue is the first book in the Waterfire Saga and the world building is most impressive. Donnelly has created an underwater world reminiscent of Greek and Roman cultures. This world’s seas have their own mythology complete with gods, goddesses, and a set of witches similar to The Fates. The premise of the book is intriguing – subscribing the creation of the Mer world to the destruction of the lost city of Atlantis.

The characters and plot are somewhat predictable, but that doesn’t necessarily take away from the charm of the book. Serafina, the main character on whom the plot revolves, is a typical princess who suffers from the royal afflictions of privilege, pressure of position, and poutiness. Sera’s love interest Mahdi is appropriately princely with a tendency toward obliviousness. (Aren’t they all?) And halfway through the book she becomes enamored of the Mysterious and Dedicated Rebel. She goes through all the stereotypical stages of metamorphosis in becoming the steel-willed heroine at the end of the book who will lead readers on her quest through the rest of the saga. Sera conveniently finds her companions along the way (including the required surly/disbelieving member of the group), and they vow to save the Mer world or die trying.

The real treat of the book, though, is the consistent adaptation of land-going plot and description to fit the sea-going setting. Some of the modified cliches are a bit punny, but it is entertaining. They speak of money as “currensea” and talk of “beaching” as a possible parental consequence for misbehavior. While the teen characters have typical teen fears and worries, one is never allowed to forget that they are underwater creatures – a real feat. Hair floats, cuts sift instead of drip blood, and sea grass is a typical side dish at meals. It is these minor details that make the world seem tangible and save the story from being trite. I look forward to visiting Miromara again and seeing where Serafina’s quest will take her.

Overall an exciting, funny, and not-too-dark read for middle grades. It reminds me of Disney’s Kingdom Keepers series. Just enough action to keep you reading but not so scary as to make you keep the lights on at bedtime.

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