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Merrow Hardcover – November 8, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Twelve-year-old Neen has heard the stories the people of Carrick tell: "Her Pa was a drinker who'd killed Mam by mistake." "Pa married a merrow—a mermaid—and Mam went after him and drowned." "Mam lost her mind after Pa died and walked the island until she was nothing but a skeleton." But Neen believes none of these. The only tales she'll listen to are those of Skully Slevin, the island's blind fiddler, and his ma. Skully tells Neen that she has merrow blood running through her veins—the proof is in the itchy red scales that appear on her each year. The only one who doesn't tell stories is bitter Auntie Ushag—she's more concerned with day-to-day tasks that need to be done, and all she'll say is that Neen's mam left because of a broken heart. But as the girl stands on the border between childhood and womanhood, she is restless and desperate for answers, and her search for them will take her to unexpected places. The author has done detailed research on the customs and language of Carrick, and this novel perfectly captures the harshness and beauty of that culture. This exquisitely told work examines the power of stories and how a well-told tale can transcend truth and history. VERDICT Readers will want to curl up at the feet of this narrator and listen to her spellbinding account. Recommended for all YA collections.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Though she sprinkles her account with Manx, Neen's no tour guide to the Middle Ages but an authentic Everyteen whose hard, beautiful world readers will recognize. A sparkling paean to the stories we tell—plain and embroidered, fantastical, amazing, true—that get us through the night.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Lush with dazzling detail—from the silky swells of the Irish Seato purring honeyed hives—Marrey Cove thrums with life. Neen’s narrative, crackling with memories, folklore, and flashes of humor, earnestly confronts both the secrets we keep and the truths we seek. A singular story about the singularity of stories—entrancing and extraordinary.
—Booklist (starred review)
The author has done detailed research on the customs and language of Carrick, and this novel perfectly captures the harshness and beauty of that culture. This exquisitely told work examines the power of stories and how a well-told tale can transcend truth and history. Readers will want to curl up at the feet of this narrator and listen to her spellbinding account.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
This quiet, introspective novel from Australian writer Braxton-Smith sparkles with lingering imagery and expressive writing. Readers will be easily drawn into Neen’s determined efforts to piece together a true understanding of the mother she barely knew, whose story has been muddied by the unkind stories and rumors shared by locals.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This book is an homage to the tales we tell—fantastical, mysterious, and heart-felt. Hand this to a student who is fascinated with mermaids and trying to decipher the line between what is real and what is not.
—School Library Connection
Eerily haunting in plot and theme, this will please fans of Brooks’ Selkie Girl
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Neen’s forthrightness, her precise, pungent way with words ("[The sun] had no pity, and under its rays all the dead of last night’s great tide had shriveled to black guts and silvery-fine fish leather. The stink of them seemed to walk abroad like it was its own creature"), intensifies our sense of the grumpy obsessiveness of her adolescent restlessness. A vital, surprising tale, in which description itself is full of passion.
Packed with adroitly selected physical details and stirring, folklore-inspired nested narratives, Ananda Braxton-Smith’s Merrow follows Neen on her journey of discovery and self-realization.
Merrow is like the tide pools it describes in such gorgeous detail, every crevice offers a new surprise. A salty, exquisitely written exploration of identity.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers
Braxton-Smith creates a world filled with legends, hardship, and hope. Neen questions everything, including her identity, her worth, and what she would be if the rumors about her mother are true...Neen’s summer of magic takes place without romance or a best friend, but standing by herself searching for her identity, her worth, and her place in the world.
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Neen is 12 years old and our narrator. As she is coming of age she struggles with her mother's disappearance and her own skin condition. Her Aunt has separated them from the town and they live a relatively isolated life. This was a slow story and darker than I would have expected from a child narrator. I enjoyed that the story did not take the mythical mermaid story and turn it into more than a story.
The sea in this story is almost a character in and of itself and the setting was magical while still being very real. I am glad I pick this book up to read, but I'm not sure I'll be reading more by the author. It is different from what I normally enjoy and while good it was a little dark for my current taste.
I did like how the characters interacted with different, seemingly conflicting views of religion and the world and the presences of the snarky, holier-than-thou monks. A few of the characters were interesting in themselves, and I would have liked to see more of them instead of reading the story as it was.
Despite that, I don't think I would recommend it to another reader-- especially one looking forward to a story about mermaids.