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The Girl with the Mermaid Hair

Review

The Girl with the Mermaid Hair

Delia Ephron is Nora Ephron’s sister. When they write a movie, a novel, or an essay together, it is usually girl-centric, calling on their own experiences as women and moms and sisters to find those very basic female characteristics in their creations. THE GIRL WITH THE MERMAID HAIR is part of this long continuum of such stories. In fact, if everything they wrote was made into a film, the theme song would be Madonna’s “What It Feels Like for a Girl.” That’s what they concentrate on, and Delia’s heroine, Sukie Jamieson, articulates that search and seizure --- of a personality, of your inner core, of the spirit of a growing woman --- with an incisive spirit.

Beautiful, highly intelligent and creative, Sukie doesn’t seem to have any major issues. She has a younger brother whom she doesn’t detest and parents who are good-looking (and getting more so after her mom has an early 40s facelift) and successful. And this being a coming-of-age novel, that’s all completely wrong. People are attractive, but they all have secret lives that reveal themselves in small doses as the story moves forward to its grand conclusion.

Sukie inherits a great mirror from her mom. They move into a new house, and the mother doesn’t want to use anything old in her decorating scheme, so she gives it to Sukie to keep in her room. It is long enough that Sukie can see the entire wondrous form of her full five feet seven inches in it, but she eventually finds that the more time she spends looking in the mirror, the more interesting the reflection gets. Sometimes it shows her exactly what she wants and other times it gives her fantasies a 3-D feel (she thinks she is actually having a conversation with a high school quarterback she meets in the mall and has a texting relationship with when no such conversation has ever taken place in real life).

Sukie is very interested in herself, as is her mother, who is constantly chasing greater physical perfection, and her father, who is quick to befriend anybody in hearing range when he’s in public, saying that he’s a “player” who is able to use his considerable personal charms to make friends and sell real estate. It turns out that he in particular isn’t all he’s cracked up to be, which makes Sukie crazy.

The mirror starts showing cracks and holes as Sukie’s personal life begins to unravel. The quarterback, her father and Sukie herself all aren’t what they appear to be, and that revelation makes things go from bad to worse. But as she reads MADAME BOVARY for school, she recognizes a kindred spirit, someone who is being suffocated by her surroundings.

The best part of THE GIRL WITH THE MERMAID HAIR is that Sukie finally realizes that she and her expectations are more stifling than any uncreative classmates, strange teachers, or messed-up parents can be. Teens will easily relate to this little morality tale, written in a first-person narrative that is at the same time simple and profound.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 1, 2010

The Girl with the Mermaid Hair
by Delia Ephron

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0061542601
  • ISBN-13: 9780061542602