Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Book Review: Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
My Review: First, let it be known how much I love mermaid mythology. Yes, I started out like most young girls, fascinated with Disney's The Little Mermaid and falling in love with Splash starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. As an English major in college, I had the opportunity to take a Legends, Fairytales, & Folklore course and was exposed to all kinds of mer tales from around the world. Some tales were sweet while others showed a very dark side to these sea creatures. It is no secret that mermaids have recently become popular in Young Adult literature and it has been exciting to read different authors' perspectives. But just like the overabundance of vampire and werewolf novels out there, it's getting harder to find a mer story that stands out from the rest. Maybe that is why I was so psyched when I came across Lies Beneath. It's just a shame that the book didn't live up to my expectations.
Here's what I liked. If you've read any of my reviews before, then you already know how much I enjoy reading books from the male perspective and how hard they are to find. I give Anne Greenwood Brown kudos for writing Lies Beneath entirely in Calder's point-of-view. Not only that, she nailed it.
I also liked the author's writing style. The chapters were not overly long and I enjoyed the poetry that was weaved throughout. It was also nice to see each chapter labeled with a title. I find it kind of fun when authors do that because I like to see how a title connects within that chapter.
One of the biggest things that drew me to this book was knowing that the author was taking what we think we know about mermaids/mermen and giving us a completely different mythology. Mermaids that survive by absorbing human emotions and energy? Cool! Cold blooded killers? Intriguing! I really liked what the author brought to the table, such as Calder not being born a merman, but being turned into one. The silver ring that appears around their necks when they are in their mer form. The depths that they will go to exact revenge and the consequences of not keeping your word if you should break a mer promise. So much potential that somehow just gets...lost.
Here is where I had issues with Lies Beneath. The story absolutely starts off strong. Calder tells us from the very first couple of pages that he is a killer, that's how he survives, but he hasn't made a kill in several months (9 months I think, right?). His three sisters, Maris, Tallulah, and Pavati, lure him to Michigan to exact revenge on Jason Hancock, the man responsible for the death of their mother. I say lure because while Calder feels bonded to his sisters, he desperately wants to be free from them. Maris, the ring leader, reluctantly agrees to cut the ties that binds him to them if he helps finish what they have set out to do. So far so good, right?
But once Calder gets to Michigan, that is sort of where the story falls flat. They decide the best way to get Jason Handcock is through his daughters. They at first think it's best to go for the youngest girl but Calder becomes fascinated with Lily, the eldest daughter of Hancock...and the story becomes boring. Seriously! The majority of the book is Calder watching, following, and...stalking Lily Hancock. He sleeps in the hammock outside her house at night. He gets a job at the same place she does. I've seen the "stalker" technique used before (for lack of a better term or phrase) and while in some books it works (Twilight, for example), it fails epically in Lies Beneath. Why you ask? I wish I could give you a good reason why. I tried going back to find some examples as to what bothers me about Calder, why I didn't feel myself swooning for him like I have for many other male lead characters. Maybe it's because he just doesn't seem fully developed, which is odd considering the book is in his point-of-view.
This also leads me to my dislike for his love interest, Lily Hancock. It's really rare for me to dislike BOTH the male and female main lead characters of a story. Actually, this may be a first. I thought Lily was going to be this rebellious, no nonsense kind of girl by the way she was first described. She annoyed me with all of the mermaid poetry and the blatant disregard for the "killing" parts. I guess I have to give it to Calder since even he was a bit annoyed that she had this romantic image in her head and no matter how he tried to redirect her back to the truth, she refused to see it. I'm not stupid, I get that in order for us to have a happily ever after, she has to forgive and come to terms with the things he has done. But to completely IGNORE it? Yeah, I have major issues with that.
Here is also a major mistake I found that became distracting. It's revealed early that Calder was born human and was made into a merman. When he was a small child, he was on a boat with his parents. A mermaid, later to become his "adopted" mother, capsized the boat and killed his parents. She showed mercy by turning him. But later in the story Calder thinks to himself, "They were out there somewhere. They might have even loved me. Did they search for me still, all these years later?" (page 241). HUH? Didn't she kill his biological parents??? If anyone has read this book and is reading this review, please feel free to let me know if I am wrong. Maybe I didn't read it correctly, but I could have sworn Calder said early in the story that they were killed.
Another thing that bothered me is how Calder and his sisters' mermaid mother died. I know she was caught in a fisherman's net. And I am assuming the fishermen never saw her? Or did they? If they did, then mermaids would be out of the closet, right? This isn't exactly a mistake but this is the kind of thing that happened a lot throughout the story. The author throws out some great ideas but doesn't fully explore them or give us enough details.
While I absolutely loved the structure of the novel such as the male point-of-view, the edgy, dark mythology, and writing style, there really wasn't a whole lot of substance to hold it together. The story focused too much on Calder spying on Lily. The characters weren't fleshed out enough. I get there is going to be a sequel but there could have been way more character development without giving away too much story. In any case, I am thankful to NetGalley and Delacorte Books for Young Readers for giving me this opportunity to read and review Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown.