Sunday, April 15, 2012

Between the Sea and Sky Book Review

Author: Jaclyn Dolamore. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Childrens. ISBN: 9781599904344.

Annotation: After her older sister, Dosia, disappears, Esmerine, a young siren, leaves the safety of the ocean to search for her sister in the human city of Sormesen. There she reunites with Alander, a handsome winged boy who she was friends with years earlier, to try to find Dosia and bring her home.  
Personal thoughts: I had heard that this novel was a bit fluffy, but after reading it I found that that was what I enjoyed about it. I really appreciate the author writing a story that is interesting and creative but also appropriate for younger teens and tweens. So often authors have really clever ideas, but the resulting books can only really be appreciated by someone over fifteen or sixteen. I could easily see a 5th or 6th grader enjoying Between the Sea and Sky, and I think there is definitely a place for novels like that in the young adult genre. Even though there is nothing Earth-shattering in the story, I would recommend it to someone who wants something easy, light and entertaining.  

Plot summary: Esmerine has recently been invited to follow in the footsteps of her older sister, Dosia, and accept the highest honor a mermaid can receive: the title of siren. Being invited to become a siren, and inherit a siren’s belt with all of its intrinsic magic, is a very prestigious event, and Esmerine is excited to begin to live a siren’s life, enchanting human men and guarding the bay from those who abuse its abundance. Soon after Esmerine pledges herself as a siren, however, Dosia disappears. Worrying that she has been kidnapped by a human, her siren belt stolen trapping her on land, Esmerine leaves the safety of the ocean and travels to the human city of Sormesen. Although mermaids are able to take human form if they desire, the transformation is very painful, and Esmerine has difficulty walking through the busy, crowded streets. Fortunately, she soon reunites with Alander, a handsome winged boy who taught her to read years earlier. Now, Alander is almost nineteen, and Esmerine feels drawn to him, even though their races, she being a mermaid and he a Fandarsee, would never allow them to be together. Esmerine is determine to rescue Dosia, but the more time she spends in the human world with Alander, the more she begins to wonder if a life on land is what she is really seeking.
Review: Light, brief and sugary sweet, Between the Sea and Sky is the perfect pick for tweens (and parents of tweens) who want a paranormal romance that is appropriate for upper elementary or middle schoolers. Set in a fictional land full of mermaids, winged humans, fairies, and other creatures, this novel also makes for a great introduction to the fantasy genre. Author Jaclyn Dolamore doesn’t spend a great deal of time delving into the mythology or layout of Esmerine’s world, but there is just enough build-up of the setting to give a little more meat to the story. Readers will enjoy the blossoming romance between Esmerine and Alander, picking up on the common but always popular “there are forces dividing us” theme. There is also little in the novel to give alarm to parents, with only some minor kissing and a few suggestive turns of phrase delivered to Esmerine from some unsavory humans. Overall, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to Between the Sea and Sky, but that makes it an ideal choice for readers who are just beginning to get into the young adult scene.

Genre: Science-fiction/Fantasy
Reading level: Grade 5+

Similar titles: Lost Voices trilogy by Sarah Porter, Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs, Fins are Forever by tera Lynn Childs, Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic tale by Carolyn Turgeon, Ripple by Mandy Hubbard.     
Themes:  Mermaids, sirens, wings, fantasy, love, sisters, duty.

Awards/Reviews:  N/A
Series Information: N/A

Discussion questions:
-      Why do you think Esmerine was unsure about becoming a siren?

-      Did you find it interesting that Esmerine was able to transform into human form? Do mermaids in literature typically have that ability?

-       Why do you think Alander was less than nice to Esmerine when they reunited?

-      Do you think Dosia did the right thing?

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