This wide-eyed, magical tale by distinguished author Alice Hoffman reflects the pale blue hue of two 12-year-old friends about to be parted at summer's end. Hailey and Claire have lived next door to each other and have been best friends all their lives, but now Claire's family is going to move away to Florida. The two hang out at the neighborhood beach club in the blistering heat, dreading the end of things. The Capri Beach Club, too, is coming to an end--neglected and shabby, due to be bulldozed at the end of the season.
Despite the girls' fear of change, everything shifts with a summer storm. At the beach club the next morning, Hailey and Claire find that the storm has left its mark, filling the cloudy waters of the swimming pool with jellyfish and seaweed. Hailey boldly dives in and discovers that the waves have also brought a delicate blue and white mermaid who is extremely grouchy at her predicament. The girls scheme to return the fish-woman to the sea, but she obstinately refuses to leave the vicinity of Raymond, the handsome boy who runs the gift shop. Alarmed at the mermaid's growing weakness, Hailey and Claire extract her promise to go back to the sea in exchange for one evening with Raymond. They set up a blind date, dress her in a long blue dress to hide her tail, and take her to the rendezvous in a wheelchair. But the next morning the dying mermaid is in love, and the patio is full of partygoers. Can the girls sneak her past all those eyes to save her life? And will she let them? Young teens will be entranced by the strange dreaminess of this poignant little story about love and loss. (Ages 10 to 14) --Patty Campbell
From Publishers Weekly
Hoffman's (Fireflies; The River King) novel for children focuses on two best friends who share a mysterious secret. The summer that Hailey and Claire are both 12 is bittersweet; come September, Claire will move to Florida with her grandparents. But in the meantime, the girls spend their days at their favorite hangout, the Capri Beach Club, which is slated for demolition and all but deserted, save for Raymond, the college-bound bookworm who runs the snack shop. After a violent storm, the girls discover a mermaid at the bottom of the pool. As the days pass, Aquamarine's health wanes on account of the chlorinated water, and the girls orchestrate a Cinderella-esque romantic evening between Aquamarine and Raymond on the condition that the mermaid return to the sea after that night, to heal. Hoffman creates an apt metaphor for that twilight time between childhood and adolescence when magic still seems possible and friendships run deep and true. Although her characters are sketched well, they are not fully realized; and while the language is lyrical (Aquamarine is "beautiful as a pearl" with a voice "as cool and fresh as bubbles rising from the ocean"), the narrative itself spins out in a coolly elegant, detached voice that evokes an adult's ("Maybe... they'd grow up and be just like all those other people who didn't know what it meant to have your best friend living right next door") and muffles much of the story's energy and potential. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
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