September Girls by Bennett Madison

newbirdTitle: September Girls
Author: Bennett Madison
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Source: Edelweiss DRC
Genre(s): YA Supernatural, YA Fantasy, Mermaids, Coming of Age

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: Moderate/High
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Mermaids are becoming the next zombies just like zombies were the next vampires – and I guess werewolves are in there somewwhere, too. Every now and then you see a mermaid book but they are becoming a lot more common. September Girls is an interesting new take on the classic mermaid lore and something more akin to the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale version of the Little Mermaid than the Disney version.

In September Girls, Sam is a young man whose family life is falling apart. After his mother took off on the family without warning for some feminist commune and his father – amid what seems to be a midlife crisis – pulls him out of his last weeks of school and drags him and his brother – whose home from college – to a remote beachfront in North Carolina. It seems like it’ll be boring and lame but the island has it’s charms. Among those are literally hundreds of blonde haired girls with perfect bodies who seem to be ubiquitous in the area, filling every shop and restaurant and hotel in the area. They work by day and party hard by night; they are always celebrating ‘birthdays’ and going aways. They would sound like your usual Southern beach girls but there’s something strange – they are all rather fixated on him. Sam realizes it one day and doesn’t understand why until he meets DeeDee (and Kristle) who over the course of the summer explain everything and initiate him into a sort of lore that he never could have imagined to be true.

The story is told primarily through Sam’s POV though every now and then an alternating chapter will jump in for a few pages and give the point of view of one of the girls (ultimately revealed to be DeeDee in the final chapters). Both POVs are crude and speak very frankly. Unfortunately while Sam was a pretty decent narrarator the cryptic mermaid chapters were kind of meh. They worked when they were just a page or two but some of them stretched a bit too long and were just unhelpful pages on pages of nothing, really. Plus even the mermaid chapters are full of curse words. Both Sam and the mermaid narrator curse and talk like you would expect teenagers to talk. This book gets points from me for at least being realistic and not pretending that kids don’t think of your ‘butt’ as your ‘ass’ and stuff like that. It was a bit much at times, though, and I can’t imagine the parents who would be buying the book for their kids would approve.

Not that you ought to be buying this for anyone under like fourteen or fifteen. Sex plays a major part in this story with Sam’s virginity turning into some mythical key to the mermaid girls’ freedom. Which was actually a kind of nice plot twist because how often do you find stories revolving around a guy losing his virginity?

I’m not going to say too much because it’s actually hard not to spoil this book entirely. In some ways I liked it, in others I didn’t. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the writing for whatever reason. But the story wasn’t bad and I liked the way the story ended for the post part. Just don’t expect a happy ending. Or a sad ending. Just an ending. It’s very much a coming of age story and I think the ending proves that. Sam walks away from this summer trip a different person and the reader walks away with an inventive interpretation of mermaid lore if nothing else. I do think, though, that if you’re in the mood for mermaids there are probably more fulfilling stories out there. I wouldn’t say that you should necessarily pass on this book – because it wasn’t bad. But it’s not what I think most people expect or most teenagers want in something marketed as a supernatural romance.

I do, however, really appreciate that this is a standalone book. I love standalone books in this era of trilogies and sequels and series.

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