Rated Reads

The Girl with the Mermaid Hair

by Delia Ephron

Rated: Moderate

Sukie Jamieson, age 15, has a perfect life — perfect hair and looks, perfect parents, perfect house, perfect grades. She has “mermaid hair,” a “long, wavy tangle of blond that falls below her shoulders” and “large, wide set, thickly lashed eyes.” Her beautiful, stylish mother reminds Sukie to sleep on her back to keep her skin from sagging and to do a “model’s pose” when being photographed to appear thinner; her tall, handsome, charismatic and successful father tells her how to make eye contact during a debate or a report to “drive the point home” and shows her how to play killer tennis.

Sukie always keeps track of how she looks, whether it’s by checking windows or mirrors or car chrome or, in a pinch, by taking “selfies” with her cell phone’s camera. “Her vanity and insecurity, huge but in equal proportions, would perhaps have remained stable but for the gift she received the day after the Jamieson family moved into their new house:” a beautiful old full-length mirror that had been her grandmother’s.

Although her life seems perfect on the surface — which is clearly where her whole family is most comfortable — Sukie still gets hit with bouts of nagging fear that she is missing out on deeper matters, like satisfying friendships. And when some strange events happen to her parents, Sukie is left feeling even more isolated and worried, driving her to spend more and more time gazing into the mirror, which starts showing her a few somewhat odd visions.

Well-known screenwriter Delia Ephron spins a tale that seems at times to be a morality tale or a fable, and at times just a tragedy. Unfortunately, she just can’t seem to make up her mind on the tone and direction she wants to take with the book, and it stumbles along confusedly. The conclusion could be plausible and satisfying, but it happens so suddenly and quickly that it feels slapdash. The book had promise, but it never comes close to achieving it.

Rated: Moderate, for young readers, for some uses of mild and moderate language; some teen drinking and some brief sexual behavior and references. Would be Mild for adult readers.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Girl with the Mermaid Hair
  • by Delia Ephron
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: