Alanna (The Flashlight Reader)'s Reviews > Between the Sea and Sky

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
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May 23, 11

bookshelves: arcs, ya, 2011, middle-grades, mermaid-books
Read in May, 2011

If Hans Christian Andersen were still alive, this is a story he would write. I loved the world create by Jaclyn Dolamore in Between the Sea and Sky. Esmerine, a mermaid who befriends a "winged boy", is a little different from all the other mermaids. She has learned how to read and write; a thing most mermaids find impractical. She has also learned how to transform into a human and walk on land. Alander-- the "winged boy"-- is a Fandarsee. Like Esmerine, he is also different from the others of his kind. Instead of being content as a messenger, he enjoys reading and studying philosophy.

When Esmerine's sister (Dosinia) goes missing, Esmerine travels to the human world to find her. She knows that her sister has been visiting with humans, and she fears that she has been captured. Once on land, Esmerine finds her old friend, Alander, and begins her search for Dosinia. But Esmerine is not just looking for her lost sister. She is also searching for her own place in the world and the bonds that unite her heart with Alander's.

One of my all-time favorite fairy tales is The Little Mermaid, even Hans Christian Andersen's tragic version. The mystery and beauty of living under the water has always enchanted me. This book did not disappoint me. I still managed to get the tingly feeling while reading about Esmerine's life under the sea. Above all that, though, I think I liked the fact that the created world was so different from any mermaid story I have ever read. In this book, mermaids and Fandarsee are a well known fact, not a hidden secret. The humans are not surprised to see the mystical creatures walking and living among them on land. In fact, merpeople, Fandarsee and humans interact daily and conduct business together. That alone is fascinating and unique.

The characters are delightful. Esmerine is different from the other merpeople. She's described as "practical" and snubbed by her peers. She has learned how to read and write from Alander, but the other sea-dwellers don't find that fascinating. How typical of people to disregard the things that they do not personally understand? Alander also deals with the same struggles on land. His father wants him to follow in the family's footsteps and become a great scientist. Alander, however, has no desire to "discover" things; instead, he wants to educate people and spread knowledge. It's no wonder that Esmerine and Alander feel like two parts of the same whole.

If I had to pick one thing that I liked the best in this book, I would have to say the descriptions. The vivid details helped bring to life the setting. When the story was taking place under water, I could picture the living quarters and imagine the class rankings (Yes, social classes under the sea!). The subtle snobbery of the "rich" merpeople was felt in every word and action. I didn't feel like the human world was described in as much detail as the ocean, but you still got a good sense of the setting. I feel like there should have been a little more detail and perception given to the human experiences since Esmerine was experiencing this land for the first time in human form.

Overall, this is a good read. It didn't take long to read--I finished in one sitting. If you like Hans Christian Andersen's version of The Little Mermaid, you will enjoy this story. There are elements that resonate in his version that continue in Dolamore's story. Between the Sea and Sky is romantic enough to earn a YA label, but clean enough for Disney. There are no graphic scenes--just a drunk and a few kisses. I enjoyed this one, but then again, it's hard to disappoint me with a mermaid story.
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