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Mermaid in Chelsea Creek (Chelsea Trilogy #1)

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3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  486 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Everyone in the broken-down town of Chelsea, Massachussetts, has a story too worn to repeat—from the girls who play the pass-out game just to feel like they're somewhere else, to the packs of aimless teenage boys, to the old women from far away who left everything behind. But there’s one story they all still tell: the oldest and saddest but most hopeful story, the one abou ...more
Hardcover, 331 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by McSweeney's McMullens (first published January 1st 2013)
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Dawn
Michelle Tea's Valencia was the perfect salve for my troubled little closeted queer heart a few years back--I loved and needed it so much you don't even know, I can't hype it enough--and I really enjoyed Rose of No Man's Land (unforgettable read), so naturally I was thrilled when I heard about this book. Lovely cover and design too so well done McSweeney's.

Unfortunately this didn't live up to my expectations. The writing was usually lovely and all the magical world-building was candy-delicious a
...more
Lisa
This is such an odd, magical book. It's not a perfect book by any means, but it's so full of heart and soul that I just couldn't help but get lost in it. It's very unique in every way: setting, characters, story, voice. I loved the illustrations, I thought they went along with the story perfectly and really enhanced the experience. I'll definitely be continuing with this strangely beautiful series when the next book is released.
Caitlin
Dirty, poor, run-down Chelsea, Massachusetts, is not exactly an exciting place to be 13. That is, not until Sophie Swankowski meets a mermaid when she’s hanging out down by the creek with her best friend. Syrena isn’t your typical mermaid – she’s a trash-talking, ancient creature from the rivers of Poland, and she’s come to tell Sophie about her destiny.

It turns out, Sophie fulfills a prophecy about a girl who will bring magic and hope back to the world. Now, she has to learn to harness and use
...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
I adore Michelle Tea, my favourite of her books is Valenciaso I was pretty excited about reading this, the first in a young adult series.

I was sort of expecting more of the same Tea that I love, but this is pretty different to her other books and reminded me of Francesca Lia Block. It's a gritty (ish) urban fantasy novel with talking pigeons and magic and the ability to get into peoples hearts to find out what they are feeling.

I really enjoyed it, and loved bits like this:

"It was a piece of gl
...more
David
Michelle Tea writes amazingly of real world relationships. The stuff between the main character and the mom, and the main character and the best friend felt really, really incredible, lived in, and true.

Unfortunately, this is a YA fantasy novel. And Michelle Tea doesn't do those things nearly as well (and, didn't have an editor who'd ever done these before either, or so I've heard). The YA-ness of the book seemed to talk down to its nominal audience of young people in a lot of ways. And the fant
...more
Renata
I'm not saying this is a perfect book, and I don't think it's for everybody, but I LOOOOVVVVVEEED it.

One of the reasons I picked it up was that Daniel Handler wrote a rave review of it, and that makes sense to me because I think Michelle Tea and Danielle Handler have somewhat similar styles, in that they are a bit wordy and pretentious but beautiful. I love them both for it, but I can theoretically understand where some readers would find it to be a drawback.

I loved how organically diverse Merm
...more
Abby
There is something about Michelle Tea's voice that is super-addictive. I can't get enough of her slightly damaged yet fierce, tragic but hilarious heroines and their casually intimate, piercingly funny stream-of-consciousness narratives. I've enjoyed everything she's written from "Valencia" to "Rose of No Man's Land," which was technically not a YA book but felt like one to me. So I was thrilled to hear she was writing a YA novel for McSweeney's new YA imprint. And when my copy finally arrived f ...more
Amanda Davidson
Let the fierce, adolescent-style summer reading begin. This book moves at the super quick pace of a magical YA novel, which it is! But it brings a kind of interiority and queer wisdom which I don't remember in, say, Chronicles of Narnia. Proud of and excited for Michelle Tea, as she pushes into new fictional terrain in her work. Polish witches, curanderas, teenage lesbian/gender blurring mentor figures, big Puerto Rican immigrant families, single working moms, a mermaid who cusses, and a determi ...more
Kari Wallman
Despite a slow start, this book captured my attention with it's magical realism. The plight young Sophie faces may not be a familiar one, yet as a girl on the cusp on young adulthood she is all to easy to relate to. The fantasy elements of this story were woven wonderfully with the pain and anguish of growing up. I can't wait to read more of this series - though waiting for the next instalment will be difficult.

Originally published on LibraryThing Dec.22, 2013 (x)
Allison Floyd
As a longstanding Michelle Tea fan, I was eager—albeit a bit trepidatious—to see her try her hand at something categorized as YA (a nebulous category, but one of which I'm a fan). This was slow going at first, but since it's the first book in a trilogy, that is perhaps to be expected, and the book really hit its stride to ripen into a work that is at turns heartbreaking, hilarious, violent, and tender. And yes, dare I say it, magical. Really, a beautiful book.

I can't wait for Round Two!
ian mar
I really hope this book gets another edition, because there are substantial (more than a few) typographical errors like repeated words and incorrect punctuation that at times actively obscures meaning and draws attention away from the story itself

and thats a shame because the story itself is so good! it started a bit slow but once it got great it got really great

& sophie's big superpower is literally just being really empathetic towards others (including her enemies ) which is pretty cool
Annalee
This novel had some elements I really enjoyed. The *perfect* prologue (which will certainly find its way into a writing lesson of mine soon), the charming talking pigeons, the tension of who Sophie should trust, and the dirty/rude mermaid all kept me going.

I went in thinking this was a standard YA novel, but I would certainly not hand it to any teens I teach...language and some of the content was much more mature. It's hard to decide who would really connect best with this book. It reminded me
...more
Sabina
I can't even with this beautiful book. Ordinary girl in a desperately ordinary, fucked-up town discovers she is a witch meant to save the world. Finds her magical family and teachers in pigeons, an ancient grimy mermaid, her doting pediatrician, a tenderqueer Chicana bruja and her curandera mom, the sweetest and most powerful babushka, and a dog that used to be her grandfather. And this is only the first of the trilogy! Wtf!
Nathan
The only redeeming quality is that McSweeney's publications are always a gem to hold, look at, and page through. If weren't for this, and the fun sketches throughout the book, I would have put this down once I reached the talking pigeons. Yes, talking magical pigeons. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for some good magical realism and certain types of fantasy. One of my favorite authors is Jonathan Carroll. Good being the operative word, here. Mermaid in Chelsea Creek is not good, even as a young adul ...more
Tasia
After reading the reviews here and on the book blogs I follow, I had much higher expectations for this book and I was, sadly, disappointed.

The beginning of the book was a little slow for me. In my opinion, it took forever to get to the entire point of the book--which was to set up Sophie as this magical main character who is meant to save the world. After Sophie finds out who she is, it gets more interesting. My favorite scenes are the ones in which Sophie is learning who she is and learning abo
...more
Carmen
50% through the book and there's no antagonist yet? So much exposition and then the book abruptly ends on a cliffhanger. Tea seems to think that she can get away with the kind of melodramatic abruptness that is common in serials like comics; but this is a novel, dammit, not a serial! Even the parts of a traditional trilogy all have a story arc of their own, not a severance in which you find yourself screwed out of a conclusion.

So, I'm a bit frustrated. I don't get the pass-out game, but I buy i
...more
Leah
I don't know this author, but based on reviews here, I might pick up some of her other work. As for parts 2 and 3 of this trilogy, it's less clear that these are worth my time.

The pros are that the author writes in a lyrical, wonderful style that I appreciate. This extended to the horror of evil and despair, which I The author has a great grasp of teen friendships and relationships with their parents that was really true to life and impressive, and I loved the broad and diverse canvas of charact
...more
Briar
I really wanted to love this book. And in some ways, I did. But a questionable plot arc, pointedly black-and-white characters, and a hell of a lot of poor proofreading and editing took away from the experience of what should have been a beautiful thing, with Michelle Tea's prose reading sort of like a slightly more grown up and grungy version of Francesca Lia Block. I'm going to write a more in-depth review when I've had some time to elaborate on the book, rather than right after finishing it af ...more
Red
I loved this book. I found so many things to criticize about it, but they all ended up being trivial in the face of what's right about it. Here's what's right: it's a gripping, exciting, plot- and -character-driven YA fantasy novel set in our world (does that technically make it magical realism?) which at its core really values women and girls, values active and thoughtful love, values ancestry and heritage, and values animals and the health of the natural world. The protagonist isn't just stron ...more
Althea J.
3.5 stars

This is the first book of a series, a fact that I came to terms with as I approached the end of the book and the story was just getting started. I've been avoiding series, preferring self-contained stories, but I would be willing to roll with it if this book didn't contain a huge pet peeve of mine -- it cut off in the middle of a climactic action scene, forcing the reader to buy the next book in the series to get resolution. Boo!

The writing, especially the first half of the book, was de
...more
Julie
The writing borders on poetry. It's so evocative. Magical. I re-read the opening paragraphs at least 4 times just enjoying the imagery. The story is so fresh and different. Finally a female heroin that doesn't revolve around "but I love both of these terribly dull boys". I was lulled in with the imagery and mythical story and by 2/3 had moved into a creepy horror. Beautifully done.

As a person, I don't particularly like Sophie, but she's a snarly, hurt, angry teenage girl--she's not believable i
...more
Audrey
I started off solidly in this book's corner. I thought the characters and their relationships were real, authentic, very true-to-life. I thought the potential for the development of this story arc was great -- the Polish mythology underlying was something I found interesting, and I was just really excited to see where this was going. The pigeons -- I loved them! (It's another instance where animals totally steal the scene in a book!) There were lots of great little details and interesting touche ...more
Raven
This is the story of a young woman raised by a single mother in a lower class neighborhood and the magic that the girl finds there. It questions gender identity, and relationships with family members and friends. It highlights the power of empathy, and the errors of humanity. All that while yes including pigeons and mermaids as main characters.

It’s finally a fantasy book I can get behind that doesn’t follow the stereotypes that so many fantasy troupes encourage. Clearly Michelle Tea is amazing,
...more
Sarah
Sophie lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a desolate, broken down town. Sophie's mom works too much at the doctor's office. Her grandma runs the town dump, which is creepy and overflowing with garbage. Sophie and her best friend Ella like to go down to the river, where they play the pass out game. But this last time, Sophie saw a mermaid, who informs her that she's going to save the town and bring good things to its people. Chelsea is a superstitious place. People believe in magic, legends and sup ...more
Daniela
mmmmm a ratos me recordó a Neil Gaiman con The Ocean (...) y American Gods, pero sin el toque de Neil para darle credibilidad y consistencia a los hechos más absurdos y disparatados. La historia me gustó, muchas veces en mi vida he querido ser una esponja para quitarle el sufrimiento a la gente (aunque luego mejor no porque pues who put the weight of the world on my shoulders?) y me encantó Angel, obvio, y ternurita Sophie y su mamá, y totalmente quiero leer los libros que siguen, pero no por es ...more
Valerie Anne
Finding out a book is part of a trilogy only after you finish it is bittersweet. On one hand, yay there's more! On the other, I feel unfulfilled. As I got closer to the end of the book, though, I did start to hope there were more books because I knew things couldn't get wrapped up in the short amount of book I had left. ANYWAY. I was tempted to give this 3 stars but I really felt it was a 3.6 so I rounded up because I grew up in a city just outside Chelsea, MA and spent my childhood WISHING some ...more
Ms Brownbuffalo
I am so glad that this book exists. It is so refreshing to have a protagonist who is a strong young woman and a book full of female characters that reflect the dynamicism of real women. I consumed this book. I couldn't stop reading and I didn't want to. The way the story unfolds is perfectly placed, and each character becomes someone that you care about. Michelle Tea has a gift in creating such true to life intricacies and complications within each character. You will never look at pigeons the s ...more
Claire
I waver between 4 and 5 stars. This was my first exposure to Michelle Tea's writing, and I've already put some of her other books on hold at the local library. Her prose is beautiful, both clear and flowery at the same time. Some nice illustrations are in the mix, too.

This book was poorly edited, and its many typos really stood out to me. There are so many good things about it, though. It makes me happy to find a book with so many wonderfully vivid female characters and their complex relationshi
...more
Andrea
It's entirely possible my expectations were too high for this book, based on the cover and title. I had dreamed it into being something that it didn't end up being. It was fine. The characters were good, especially the way the friendship between Ella and Sophie was drawn. Some beautiful imagery, and I like that so far, there's no hint of "she thinks she's plain but she's really beautiful" that you get a lot in YA books. Sophie has ratty hair and a long face, and no one pretends that she's the on ...more
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Michelle Tea (born Michelle Tomasik) is an American author, poet, and literary arts organizer whose autobiographical works explore queer culture, feminism, race, class, prostitution, and other topics. She is originally from Chelsea, Massachusetts and currently lives in San Francisco. Her books, mostly memoirs, are known for their views into the queercore community. In 2012 Tea partnered with City ...more
More about Michelle Tea...

Other Books in the Series

Chelsea Trilogy (2 books)
  • Girl at the Bottom of the Sea (Chelsea, #2)
Valencia Rent Girl Rose of No Man's Land The Chelsea Whistle Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class

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“Andrea worked to harden herself to the onslaught of feelings. The problem with feelings was, first you had one, which was generally bad enough. But then you had a feeling about your feeling, and then a feeling about how you were feeling about your feeling, and then another feeling would pop up at the sight of it all, this teetering pyramid of emotion, and all of it would look wrong to Andrea, all her feeling somehow incorrect, too much or too little, too soft or too hard, and another feeling would emerge at the thought of that. It was endless, having feelings. And god forbid someone noticed you having them, as Sophie just had. Then you had feelings about that, about having been seen, and more feelings still about the other person's feelings. Oh, it was awful.” 2 likes
“Sophie knew about power animals,everyone did...Sophie thought she might be a cat, she liked cats a lot.” 0 likes
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