Book Review: September Girls
By: Bennett Madison
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Page Count: 352
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Fantasy, Mermaids
I had such high expectations for this novel. First, the cover is gorgeous and magical. Second, this is the first novel about mermaids that I have read written by a male and from a male perspective. Third, the summary was intriguing and pulled me in immediately. Sadly, this book did not live up to my expectations. While I did like it, I didn't love it. Things start off slowly and it takes awhile for the story to gain momentum.
There is nothing wrong with Bennett Madison's writing. The story is interesting, the writing flows well, and the descriptions bring this story to life. This is truly a case where the phrase "It's me, not you" applies. In spite of how well written the novel was I just couldn't lose myself in this world. My main issue with the novel is the main character, Sam. I never got to a point where I liked him. That makes it difficult when the majority of the story is told from his perspective. I found him to be annoying and some of his decisions baffled me. Furthermore, I always thought as a teen that I wanted to be inside a guy's mind, but after reading this novel I can safely say I am glad I never got that wish. Sam is constantly thinking about sexual things that were a bit TMI for me. While I never made a connection with Sam, I can see how many teen males will enjoy reading his story. I'm sure his thought pattern, actions, and manner of speech are realistic; they are just so far removed from my own experiences that it made it difficult for me to love this novel. I do think this novel will resonate with those who are seeking a coming of age story told from a male perspective. I admit that we need more YA novels with male main characters.
In addition, the amount of cursing, partying, and sexual escapades made this novel feel more New Adult than Young Adult. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I would have preferred to know that going in. I'm not opposed to reading books with those topics, but I just worry that younger teens will pick this one up thinking it's a summer romance about a guy at the beach and get way more than they bargained for...
In spite of my blase attitude, I did enjoy some aspects of the novel. For instance, I loved the mermaid lore that Bennett creates. He makes the mermaids less glamorous than they have been in previous novels I have read and makes them real and broken. These girls have a whole slew of issues to deal with once they make it to land. My favorite parts of the novel were the sections in which the Girls speak. I found myself pushing through Sam's chapters just to get to those segments. The Girls are why I kept reading and the true strength of this novel. The lore is also unique; I appreciated that it wasn't the same recycled pieces I have read countless times before.
I can't help but wonder if the Girls are a symbol of the larger issue that lurks within society today: the objectification of women. Whether this was the author's intent or not, I do think it's an intriguing notion and I found the ways people interacted with the Girls to be thought provoking. I also was a little saddened by their lives. This is not the sort of existence I would want.
Another strength of this novel is the setting. Madison does a beautiful job of describing the beach town. I loved the vivid language.
This novel wasn't for me, but I can still see its merits. I would recommend it to those looking for an interesting spin on traditional mermaid lore, those who want a male point of view, or those who simply want a more complex summer love story.
One Last Gripe: I didn't like how the Girls threw themselves at Sam.
My Favorite Thing About the Book: The lore
First Sentence: The summer following the winter that my mother took off into something called Women's Land for what I could only guess would be all eternity, my father decided that there was no choice but for him to quit his despised job and take me and my brother to the beach for at least the entire summer and possibly longer.
Favorite Character: DeeDee
Least Favorite Character: Jeff
When Sam's dad whisks him and his brother off to a remote beach town for the summer, he's all for it-- at first. Sam soon realizes, though, that this place is anything but ordinary. Time seems to slow down around here, and everywhere he looks, there are beautiful blond girls. Girls who seem inexplicably drawn to him.
Then Sam meets DeeDee, one of the Girls, and she's different from the others. Just as he starts to fall for her, she pulls away, leaving him more confused than ever. He knows that if he's going to get her back, he'll have to uncover the secret of this beach and the girls who live here.