Bloomsbury, £6.99, ISBN 978-1-4088-2018-6
Hawaiian surfer girl Tempest Maguire dreads turning 17. Adolescence is confusing enough a time for a teenage girl, but growing gills and even a tail are really pushing things too far. Tempest’s mother is a mermaid, you see, and Tempest’s more fish-like traits will come into full bloom at her seventeenth birthday. Tempest doesn’t want to become a mermaid. You see, six years ago her mother finally succumbed to the call of the ocean and left behind her family. While her father still believes that his wife left them due to necessity, Tempest views her mother’s departure as a betrayal. She takes care of her youngest brother and protects him from being bullied by the older brother while their father is away at work. Who will take care of them if Tempest cannot resist the call of the ocean? As you can tell, Tempest really doesn’t want to become her mother. But it may be too late – she finds herself in a love triangle with two surfer boys even as she slowly learns of her Very Special Heritage. Will history repeat itself?
Hold the happy Disney songs – there are no singing lobsters leading a chorus of pelicans and frogs here to create any romantic revelry. Tempest Rising is about 340 pages full of teen angst, whining, and pouting. Normally I would adore such a story the way a vampire just loves stuffing his face with garlic, but the teen angst is actually very well done here. Tempest is not exactly the most likable person around, and there are times when she’s being such a brat, but I can certainly understand and relate to her blues.
Unfortunately, it’s the love triangle that ultimately sinks this story. Perhaps not completely, but enough to create a dent in my enjoyment. Let’s see, Tempest has a boyfriend at the start of this story, Mark. Mark is human, so of course he can’t compete with the designated boyfriend, Kona. In fact, Mark isn’t even mentioned in the synopsis at the back cover, which should tell you something. The thing is, this guy is so patient, trying so hard to get through to Tempest when all she does here is to treat him really badly. He even buys her a wonderful birthday gift, even if it’s an unfortunate one due to Tempest’s issues that he has no idea of. And then, all it takes is one look at Kona for Tempest to go, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” I know, we are talking about hormonal teens here, but Kona is such a stereotypical smirking stalking cliché who just won’t be straight up with Tempest even if she nearly died due to not knowing all the facts about her heritage.
Various characters deliberately not telling Tempest anything despite having no reason not to is a problem in this story, one that makes the whole tale pretty contrived, so perhaps Kona is just another one of the many frustrating contrivances in this story. But he’s the designated boyfriend. If the author wants me to accept him as the right person for Tempest, she should have given Kona some redeeming features. No, his big house and royal blood don’t count – I don’t see a Harlequin Mills & Boon logo anywhere on this book, after all. Mark has been so patient, so gentle, and so understanding…. so to have the heroine ditch him for some smirking beefcake she’d known for only a while makes me cringe. It is not surprising that the last third of this book bores me despite the fact that it is also the most action-heavy parts of the story – all that “true love” crap between Kona and Tempest is not believable at all given how superficial their relationship had been portrayed up to that point. And seriously, that guy smirks. I really hate that word.
The ending is somewhat open-ended, although personally I like the ambiguous and hopeful nature of that ending. Only, why does it have to be that smirking cliché? At least Kona doesn’t sparkle, I guess. Oh yes, back to the book. The mermaid canon is not very well developed and the story ends with many questions left unanswered. This is something you should take into account when it comes to making a decision to buy this book, since the author’s website tells me that she is currently trying to cash in on the dystopian world bandwagon instead of writing a sequel to this book.
Teen angst is the best thing about this book, and it’s a pity that the rest of the story – the superficial and formulaic romance, the rushed and underdeveloped little mermaid adventure moments (complete with a resident Ursula) – doesn’t come close. Otherwise, I may be moved to care about whether or not there will be a sequel to this book. As it is, if I come across the sequel, I may consider picking it up; if not, well… it’s not like there is a shortage of stories featuring self-absorbed petulant Very Special Girls and the hot boys who love them.