Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
Mermaid, blood, the lake even looks like it could be Lake Superior. It’s great! Only one problem: the narrator character is a merman (Merman! **cough, cough** Merman! </Zoolander reference>), so it would really make more sense to put a male character on the front.
Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually, they select their victims at random, but this time around, the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother’s death.
It’s going to take a concerted effort to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder’s job is to gain Hancock’s trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock’s daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love–just as Lily starts to suspect there’s more to the monster-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between them and the girl he loves.
One thing’s for sure: whatever Calder decides, the outcome won’t be pretty.
This is a huge disappointment to me, but no, it’s really not.
Madonna/Whore Dichotomies: the young women of note in this book are either promiscuous, killer mermaids or sweet, pure victims.
Serial Killer Love: it’s one thing to hear what a serial killer is thinking in a horror movie; it’s quite another to have a serial killer become the romantic lead in a teen novel. To make it worse, Calder’s not even interesting. He’s simply another in the Edward mold, only even less appealing (note: I am not an Edward fan at all), for several reasons I’ll get to in a sec.
Super Cheesy Puppy Love: Calder and Lily’s romance is the most sickeningly sweet brand of puppy love there is. The kind that is fun for the participants, but makes everyone else want to gag. It may be realistic for teens, but these two are seriously so sugary, I think I need to schedule a dentist checkup.
Insta-love. Otherwise known as “lust”.
Incest: okay, so they’re mermaids, they’re a different species, whatever. And yeah, Calder may not be blood-related to his sisters, but it’s still uncomfortable when one is revealed to be in love with him! Plus, I feel like the genetic changes which obviously happened when he was “reinvigorated” into mermaidishness (mermannishness?) count as blood relation, because better safe than sorry with this stuff. And when you realize that he’s also fallen in love with his adoptive niece?
All right, let’s start with the good: I love the Lake Superior setting, and I love that the mermaids are scary, killer mermaids.
…and that’s it.
So, you all know the plot of Twilight, right? Picture Twilight, only substitute killer mermaids for vampires. Then imagine that Bella came along before Edward was fully reformed. He was experimenting with “vegetarianism”, let’s say, but he wasn’t fully committed. In addition, he and his family have a vendetta against Charlie. So naturally, the two fall in love.
So, clearly serial killers are all just waiting for the love of the right girl to reform them.
With me so far? Here’s the kicker: it’s from his point of view. As a horror/psychological study plot, fine, but since this is a love story and Brown didn’t want to turn her audience off to the romance, Calder has few and brief struggles with wanting to kill/eat Lily, and they are less than compellingly written. At least Twilight, for all its faults, kept up a sense of tension that Lies Beneath was sorely lacking.
Furthermore, although it’s revealed that Calder was originally human and was “reinvigorated” into a merman by his sisters’ mother, that still makes him the only merman to feature in the novel. So while I’m sure that his essential humanity was the rationale behind making him the only merperson who questions their way of life, it still turned out that mermaids = promiscuous killers and mermen = not that bad (I mean, he’s totally trying to change)!
Add in the near-incest, and this book is nearly a perfect storm of squicky romance.
Nothing surprised me, either. Anything that would have been interesting or innovative was telegraphed well in advance.