One of the main reasons I was interested in reading Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea was because of the cover blurb from Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). His glowing blurb ends with, “I can’t keep still to write a blurb about it. Just read the thing, read it now.” In a sense, that is how I feel about Mermaid in Chelsea Creek as well. It’s a beautiful book, and part of me certainly wants to just shove it at everyone who passes by me.
But another part of me–the part that went to library school–knows that this is not a book for everyone. Let me tell you about it, and you can decide if it is for you or not.
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek is the story of Sophie Swankowski and her best friend Ella, who take turns making themselves pass out, so they can have visions of being somewhere other than the gritty town of Chelsea, Massachusetts. It’s the story of Sophie’s grandmother, who is not what she seems. It’s the story of Syrena, the “totally busted, sort of mean mermaid.” It’s the story of pigeons who can and do talk. It’s the story of Polish folklore combined with Puerto Rican folklore to create something new. It’s the story of girls with the power to “peek into a heart and take out what sickens it.”
Michelle Tea is also a published poet, and her style of writing is beautiful. Here is a quick test to see if you might like this book:
Andrea worked to harden herself to the onslaught of feelings. The problem with feelings was, first you had one, which was generally bad enough. But then you had a feeling about your feeling, and then a feeling about how you were feeling about your feeling, and then another feeling would pop up at the sight of it all, this teetering pyramid of emotion, and all of it would look wrong to Andrea, all her feeling somehow incorrect, too much or too little, too soft or too hard, and another feeling would emerge at the thought of that. It was endless, having feelings. And god forbid someone noticed you having them, as Sophie just had. Then you had feelings about that, about having been seen, and more feelings still about the other person’s feelings. Oh, it was awful.
Did you like that? Did you think it was lovely and funny? If you did, you might like this book. If you thought that was too wordy, you will probably not like this book.
Reviewed by: Teen librarian Renata
Recommended for: Anyone who likes reading about feelings and teenage girls who have the power to save the world